Network HD: 720p vs 1080i
It’s a long-running debate: 720p vs. 1080i. There are plenty of people on both sides of the resolution fence, including all the major networks.
January 02, 2009 by Phil Lozen

And the top 10 cable networks from the week of Dec. 8-14 according to Nielsen:

  • USA – 1080i
  • ESPN – 720p
  • Disney Channel – 720p
  • Fox News – 720p
  • ABC Family – 720p
  • TBS – 1080i
  • Hallmark Channel – 1080i
  • TNT – 1080i
  • Lifetime – 1080i
  • Nick at Nite – 1080i

So why do some networks choose 720p while others 1080i? For ESPN, since it’s all sports all the time, 720p is a no-brainer. But what about CBS, which has the NFL and NCAA basketball? When you look at the Eye Network’s programming, you’ll see that it’s constantly in the top 10 with shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, all dramas shot at 24fps. So while it does have sports programming, its bread and butter is on the 24fps side.

And while you might think bandwidth comes into play, it actually doesn’t. 720p/60 shows 55.3 million pixels per second (1280x720=921,600x60=55,296,000) while 1080i results in 62.2 million pixels per second (1920x1080=2,073,600x30=62,208,000). Looking at the math, the pixel count per second is actually only about 12 percent higher for 1080i.

Seemingly it all comes down to preference. Each network has made its choice on the issue and no major changes are expected anytime soon. And while satellite networks are starting to roll out 1080p video on demand, there are no signs of any of the broadcast networks shifting to this in the near future. 

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