I exchanged a few e-mails with my senior contact at Astral (TMN-HD). These quotes were approved directly by him, so there's no "heresay". Hope this clarifies a few things:
I asked him 5 questions and these are his responses.
1. Is my understanding about your purchasing philosophy always asking for DD5.1 and OAR correct?
Yes our HD specs call for OAR and 5.1 audio. Unfortunately these are not always available for PayTV masters. If they are available to us, we take them. There are a high number of full frame masters coming through.
2. Although there are certainly more DD5.1 movies than years ago, what reasons can you provide for many of the movies still not being DD5.1. Are some studios "holding back" or is this an "across" the board issue with most US studios (HBO/Showtime excepted since we seem to get DD5.1 on almost al lthe programming they provide you).
I think there is only one studio now that is holding back on 5.1 audio, so this really is not the issue. In a lot cases the 5.1 audio mix is simply not available for the broadcast master.
3. Is there any difference between what TMN and MC are able to "negotiate"for DD5.1/OAR?
There is no difference. In fact our two programming departments collaborate on bringing the masters into Canada.
4. Is OAR a separate issue. Are OAR movies more difficult to get?
OAR and 5.1 are separate issues. We are at the mercy of what the studio has made available for broadcast video distribution.
5. Any further clarification you’d like to add?
There is no issue with getting HD and 5.1 audio today. In fact there never was an issue of getting both together, if they were available and the studio had given us HD rights. A few years ago some studios were reluctant to give us HD masters here in Canada (this is no longer the case). At that time (a few years ago) 5.1 audio tracks were generally not available to us and when they were, it was very expensive to get dubbed. So, in those early days as HD was just coming on the scene, we did not always pay for the 5.1 dub and concentrated on the high profile movies. For some time now we have always ordered 5.1 audio (if available), regardless of cost.