Shaw Broadcast/Shaw Direct will be transitioning all signals on Anik F1R and Anik F2 to MPEG-4 beginning next spring 2017. The transition will occur in three phases with the final phase being completed by September 2019. By the fall of 2019, nearly all stations will be available in MPEG-4 HD only and all customers will require MPEG-4 receivers on all TV's to continue viewing the complete channel line-up. Expect to see more info from Shaw Direct on a receiver transition plan later this year. Customers will start seeing impact to their TV Line-up in the spring of 2017 if they choose to not upgrade obsolete MPEG-2 receivers.
Going through the schedule, it looks like HD customers will be affected first with many becoming MPEG-4 stations during the first phase. SD only customers will start being affected in the second phase.
The other thing I noticed is it looks like Shaw will be giving up some transponders on Anik F1R and F2. Shaw Direct/Broadcast currently occupies 30 transponders on Anik F1R. After the transition it will be down to 25. For Anik F2 they will go from 22 to 6. Some space will also clear up on Anik G1 with the removal of some duplicate SD services and the migration of Vancouver HD signals over to Anik F1R.
And I thought they were transitioning to add more HD channels. Instead they are simply doing it to save on transponder costs. Typical third rate move from Shaw. Silly me for thinking they would do something to improve service for their customers. Is Shaw replacing HD receivers at no cost, like Bell did, or are they screwing them over again?
If you look at the different phase plans, they actually are planning to add a lot of HD channels. Many of the channels that are SD only right now will be upgraded to MPEG-4 HD during the transition.
Here are some examples.
Super Channel 3 HD
Super Channel 4 HD
TMN Encore 1 HD (East)
TMN Encore 2 HD (East)
Fox News HD
Bloomberg Canada HD
Fight Network HD
CITS-DT (YesTV - Hamilton)
CJIL-DT (Miracle Channel - Lethbridge)
Animal Planet HD
Travel + Escape HD
The Weather Network HD
NFL Network HD
BBC World News HD
Disney Junior HD
The Shopping Channel HD
Discovery Science HD
KCTS-DT (PBS - Seattle)
W Movies HD
Sundnace Channel HD
RDS Info HD
Cottage Life HD
Out TV HD
World Fishing Network HD
Teletoon French HD
Wild TV HD
WPCH-DT (Peachtree - Atlanta)
Three years is a long time to wait for HD that is comparable to the competition. How many customers will Shaw Direct lose in the mean time?
Surprising as it is, I found around 60 channels that are available in HD on other Canadian providers, but not Shaw Direct. Most of them are on the above list. No CTV2 though.
Companies like Bell, DISH and DirecTV can change over quicker because they aren't dealing with commercial head-ends.
I suspect that the commercial head ends are not that big an issue this time around since many are probably already upgraded to handle existing MPEG4 channels.
Bell also took several years to complete the switch. They delayed for at least two years after the initial announcement and then took another year to complete the receiver swap. I suspect that much of the delay was to reduce cost and liability for replacing incompatible equipment and receivers. There were also technical issues with signal encoding, satellite capacity and satellite reliability at the time. The longer Shaw waits, the more likely it is that incompatible receivers are taken out of service and customers will have replaced equipment on their own.
Another issue is customer attrition. Satellite TV customer numbers are dwindling, especially in urban areas that are served by cable, DSL2 and fibre. If there is any cost to customers for new receivers and equipment, they are just as likely to switch to the competition as stay with Shaw. A badly executed transition could spell the end of Shaw Direct as a viable service.
Quite frankly a 3+ year transition in and of itself is bad execution in my opinion.
Snowbirds will potentially receive more HD but also the potential to loose channels depending on where channels end up as they move channels around and if any move to G1 or that are used as a simsub source.