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iTunes UK Loads Up On HD Content

Gordon Kelly


iTunes UK Loads Up On HD Content

While iTunes UK/iTunes anywhere-outside-the-States tends to be the poor counterpart the US mainstay we proud pound plummeting Brits have gotten something of a High Definition boost today...

A flood of HD content has suddenly hit the uber popular online Store with 720p versions of US hits Battlestar Galactica, Dirty Sexy Money, Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, The Office (US remake) and more. Closer to home, acne and not so innocent nubile sexual tomfoolery never looked so sharp as Channel 4's Skins also signs up along with the Beeb's Planet Earth (is the mating process between wild animals and Britain's teens really that different?).

Pricing is fairly reasonable varying between £1.99 and £2.49 per episode while seasons begin at £24.99 and rise up to £33.99 for shows with longer/more episodes. Naturally enough, all content is encoded in H.264 and while it won't natively run on iPhones or iPods Apple does helpfully bundle standard definition versions with them for free.

Good news, but don't expect iTunes rivals to be far behind...


iTunes HD TV (Warning: Will Open iTunes}


February 6, 2009, 8:41 pm

Are the shows you download off iTunes time-limited at all, for example unlimited watches in a 48 hr period or does it work like the songs, i.e. keep and play as many times as you want? I really don't like it when all you end up doing is "renting" a show...


February 6, 2009, 8:44 pm

They are yours to keep - rental is its own dedicated section.


February 6, 2009, 8:50 pm

Excellent - I might have to bite the bullet and actually download iTunes then. Unless there's any other services worth exploring??


February 6, 2009, 8:56 pm

This is good news, but I'm sure those telly addicts out there with 37" and above TV's will be disappointed by the lack of 1080p HD material :(

I can't wait for a review of the service and comparisons of the download version to a DVD or bluray versions.

I hope iTunes competitors catch it up faster than they have for mp3 downloads, and help drive the price down or offer something extra i.e. 1080p.

Has the choice of 720 as apposed to 1080 been driven by bandwidth considerations or is going to delivered at a premium?


February 6, 2009, 9:19 pm

@HDRE - I personally find 1080p to be the biggest marketing con job of the modern technological era. I remember reading a report which said you need to have a TV in excess of 50 inches and sit closer than 3 metres to it in order for the average human eye to spot the difference. There is a reason why HDTV quality king Pioneer didn't bother with 1080p for so long...


February 6, 2009, 9:56 pm

@Gordon Thanks for the resolution education. I suppose I've fallen for the marketing and buzz words - dammit! I do have one more question. I could not see any information regarding file encryption/format on iTunes. Are the downloads DRM free?


February 6, 2009, 10:39 pm

@HDRE - yes I believe they are. Rental is a separate section (mentioned above)

Matthew Bunton

February 6, 2009, 10:54 pm

Prices are still too high though, this has always been an issue with Itunes.

Their download speeds are pretty bad with normal SD content heaven knows how slow the HD content will be.

Matthew Bunton

February 6, 2009, 11:15 pm

just downloading episode 1 of Battlestar Galatica in HD 1.31GB approx time 1 hour on a 10MB cabled line :((((((

As TR stated the SD version is also included as a seperate download.

Will be interesting to see what the quality is like as I have the series on DVD and play it on the 360 which upscales to 720p and looks pretty good.


February 6, 2009, 11:46 pm


Really? I wasn't sure on the difference myself so downloaded one of the HD samples from Microsoft's website in both 720p and 1080p and ran them side by side on my two 24" screens now admitted there not the same screen, (one is a dell 2407-HC the other a e248wfp) so in the interestes of fairness we ran the 1080 content on the lesser of the two screens (the e248wfp).

Sat back at around 3 meters from the screens both me and my mate were able to tell the difference, its certainly not massive, but even on the worse of the two screens the 1080 content just appeared sharper and more true to life. I certainly wouldn't call 1080p a con based on my experience.

I accept that at usual TV watching distances you would need a 50" TV or above to see the difference but you certainly don't need to go above 50" AND sit within 3m.

Just my 2p

Matthew Bunton

February 7, 2009, 5:32 am

Finally downloaded and tried it out and well no suprise really not even up to DVD standard even before any upscallin imo.


February 7, 2009, 7:48 am

@BinnsY - It's not me, it's science. It's one of those if-you-know-which-is-which-you-can-see-it things, if not it's pretty darn hard to tell - especially for something double the size to download. On top of this digital HD broadcasts won't be 1080p for many years for this reason - too much bandwidth. Only Blu-ray will satisfy that need.

It's pretty standard now, but 1080p is one of the last things I look for on a TV. 1080p sets also generally do a worse job of upscaling SD content as it has to be stretched to a higher resolution.

Just my 2p :)


February 7, 2009, 9:48 pm

I think you'd be hard pressed to find a mid-high end TV now days which isn't native 1080p. Plus on blu0ray it's better get a 1080p standard now, rather than a 720p.. then they release 'blu-ray 2' with 1080p in 5 years time. So 720p vs 1080p on those two is kind of beside the point. Plus I use my 1080p TV as a computer monitor while I sit on the sofa. That makes a visible difference for text and screen real-estate.

However downloadable content, I agree with you. I've seen comparison videos with 720p blu-ray downscales on one side and the full 1080p on the other.. it's completely indistinguishable. You can almost see it on fine hair strands or stuff like that, but without both to compare on the same screen. As you said, you can't pick them apart.

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