Thursday, October 25, 2007

TV in Europe vs. the US - amazing culture/technology shock

In addition to a visit to the European headquarters of Altova GmbH in Vienna earlier this week, I'm also spending 2 days with my folks in Linz, Austria. Its good to be back home for a bit and we are having a great time here - despite the nasty cold that I caught earlier in the week.

But when we watched a bit of TV after dinner, the huge cultural and technology differences between TV in Europe (in particular in Austria) vs. TV in the US became quite apparent...

Positive things first: we watched a German movie adaption of a Donna Leon novel about Commissario Brunetti, and it was done quite nicely. I was especially delighted to watch 2h of movie on a regular TV station with no commercial breaks whatsoever. It's much harder to do e-mail or Twitter on your iPhone while watching TV if you have to pay attention all the time due to a lack of commercial breaks. :)

Issue #1: there is still no HDTV programming. Yes, there maye be one or two satellite providers who provide HDTV over a dish, but the normal cable TV that is in 90% of households does not include a single HDTV channel. Compare that to a minimum of at least 10-15 high-def channels in the US by now.

Issue #2: when I looked at the TV guide and also did a bit of channel-surfing, I was astounded that I was (a) unable to find a single channel that would broadcast the World Series game tonight (but I could watch soccer on 5 channels - thanks, but not thanks!); and (b) the total number of channels was 34. No, I'm not saying that my folks only paid for the 34 standard cable channels at the lowest price - the brutal reality is that there is only a maximum of 34 channels total. That's it.

I would have thought that over the past 6-7 years Europe would have caught up wih the US a bit with respect to TV technology and avalable selections, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all.


mogulati said...

Hi Alex. I feel your pain, been here over six years and dying for some NHL hockey here. We get the occasional teaser but with some internal tournaments, but nothing that is really satisfying.
I also had no idea HDTV was so big in the states. I guess I have lost touch with things there.

D. Himes said...

The Austrians are wise in not hurrying to join the U.S. at the bottom of the international mathematics heap...!

Anonymous said...

So many channels -- so little of content. Perhaps the Austrians are shooting for quality over quantity...

Anonymous said...

Sport is a tricky thing to find on TV anywhere in the world -- I'm in LA at the moment, where not a single match of either the rugby world cup or the cricket world cup have been shown, despite the USA playing in the former. And these really are world cups!

Anonymous said...

Your observations regarding Austrian/European TV vs US TV are truly uniformed and ridiculous. The World (USA) Series- Wake up your in Europe ! Who cares ! How do u think Europeans feel when they want to watch 'soccer' in the US. Why do u think they bought Beckham ?
There is plenty of HDTV here if you subscribe. It was here before the US. Even basic TV prior to HD had higher pixel quality here than US TV. I've been here 10 years and would never go back to US tv style programming.
Commercials every 10 minutes during a movie. Censorship, manipulation of the media, Fox, and live coverage of Paris Hilton being more important than anything else.
All Hat no cattle !

A.Falk said...

Anonymous: "truly uninformed and ridiculous"? Really? That is truly amusing, since I was born in Austria and only moved to the US in 2001.
Regarding HDTV: I never doubted that you can get HDTV on cable or satellite or who had a test channel up and running first. But the reality today is that all broadcast networks in the US have to send in HDTV, whereas ORF and ARD and ZDF still broadcast in PAL and low-def.
Regarding NTSC: I agree, PAL was always better - I never said otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Both my grandmothers were born in Vienna, I moved to France 10 years ago fm the US. Things have changed a lot since they were born and we swapped continents. Maybe both of us have something to learn !
Canal+ has excellent programming some of which is in HDTV.
My daughter moved back to the US with her French husband after growing up here and graduating film school in Paris. She thinks US 'style' TV is terrible, and she's a producer. So a lot of my recent observations are feedback from her experience. International news in the US means Mexico and Canada ! If you need to talk on your iPhone every 10 minutes than I guess US tv is great for you. You must hate going to a movie theater, no commercials for 90 min.
Even internet services (offerings and prices) have evolved more here in the last 10 years than in the US. My daughter was very disappointed in what is available there vs here and she's in NYC !
Well now that I think about it, she has an iPhone too ! Maybe you both would rather look at your iPhone than US tv -
now I get it !
Cool with me - I own stock in Apple !
Last question - what do you do when you want to watch news that is accurate and honest ?

A.Falk said...

Actually, the secret to watching TV in the US is not to use the iPhone very 10 minutes (as you had suspected), but rather to record it on DVR and then watch it at your convenience and skip the commercials.
Regarding watching news that are accurate and honest: certainly not on TV, you are correct. To get my news I read a newspaper - mostly Wall Street Journal and Frankfurter Allgemeine. Sometimes, when I want to find out what's going on in Austria I watch the ORF Internet TV at
Re Internet: I can't complain, I have a 6 MBit/s connection via Comcast cable right now, and will soon upgrade to 30 MBit/s via the Verizon Fiber Optic network, once they reach my town in their rewiring.