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FAQ - HDTV & 4K Formats

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Updated early 2021. 9,521 Previous views.

HDTV Formats

This question comes up frequently, so here are the formats that the various television stations "broadcast". The term broadcast is in quotes because many of these channels don't broadcast at all, but they send signals to service providers (or stream).


1080i is "crisp" and may be seen as "sharper" than 720P, but 720P has other advantages, such as less bandwidth required and better PQ when lots of motion is on screen.

National Geographic
OMNI 1 & 2
Rogers Demo Station
Rogers Sportsnet
TMN & MPix
Any other channel not listed below as 720P is very likely to be 1080i (or 480i if SD).

All service providers, excepting Bell "pass" the broadcast format directly to the STB. It may then be that you only have one output format, depending on the STB, but that's a different scenario. Shaw (cable and Direct), may still change some 720P channels to 1080i - it seems to vary with time/channel.

The above applies to "digital cable". IPTV streams are progressive scan and it appears that Bell Fibe uses 720P while Rogers IgniteTV uses 1080P for "streaming" IPTV.


720P saves a bit of bandwidth and is also said to be "smoother" and "better" for sports programming. Bell converts all broadcast channels to 720P to save bandwidth.

CBC & Affiliates - Bold, NN, Doc (changed to 720P September 2011)
The High Fidelity (now Blue Ant) Channels
The Score


The only service provider programming that's currently available in 1080P is the "on demand" programming from BTV (and Dish), which is downloaded to the HDD of the PVR. I believe that Shaw is starting to roll this (1080P OD) out to Gateway customers.

It appears that Rogers IgniteTV utilizes 1080P for streaming, however, the "resolution" is not all that affects the image quality as the bitrate also comes into play and that can vary from channel to channel, as well as the original format, etc.


The latest information we have, is that Bell (Sat) is converting all of the channels to 720P to save bandwidth. Bell Fibe, Bell Aliant, as well as Telus Sat and Optik get (most/all of) their signals from Bell - some (local area channels) may be direct from the "broadcaster".


Some OTT programmes and services (like NetFlix, YouTube, etc) are now available up to 4k (and 1080P and lower resolutions). Some providers have very limited programming on specific 4K channels. Of course you'll need a 4k TV and other 4k equipment to take advantage of 4k.

Broadcasting vs Original Material

An affiliate broadcaster only broadcasts in one resolution.

Please remember that the broadcaster has nothing to do with the original (recorded) signal/material, which for HD tapes, are usually 1080P/24 (sometimes 1080i/24), even for ABC, which then broadcasts in 720P.

People are often concerned about the affiliate "converting" signals say from 720p to 1080i, when this doesn't necessarily happen due to the nature of the original material.

HDTV Native Formats

Please note that all current HDTVs only display in one HD format. All incoming HD formats are converted to this native HD format. Also, most HD STBs have the ability (or mandatory) to change output formats usually to a single format unless they have an SD IPG in which case some have passthrough functionality.

Similar comments to the above apply for 4K.

See the following FAQ on TV native format vs. incoming format.

FAQ - Native Display Resolution vs. Input Format - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

And the following FAQ on Upconversion:

FAQ - On Upconversion - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums


For those people who are streaming their viewing, you need to have good bandwidth (say 100 mbps for 4k, although 10-30 mbps is usually adequate for HD and some 4k) to have good streaming quality and for services like Netflix you need to use your computer (or other box/TV) to appropriately configure your account settings to allow for the best picture and audio quality. This can also sometimes cost more. If you're worried about a bandwidth cap you may need to compromize quality for reduced bandwidth.

Please PM 57 if you have any comments or suggestions.
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Further clarification for Rogers:

For Legacy Digital Cable, Rogers passes the signal directly to the box and the box converts that signal to whatever video output you select, be it 720P, 1080i, 1080P (or 4K for the 4K boxes). For IgniteTV, Rogers converts all incoming signals to 1080P (for 480i, 720P and 1080i channels) and leaves the 4K channels as 4K. I'm not sure where that conversion is done by Rogers, either at the Head End, or before that somewhere. No channels broadcast 1080P, but there is some OD and apps that are 1080P.

For 4K channels, the broadcaster would convert any programming that's originally less than 4K to 4K since not all programming is available as 4K.

Some people may still have the SA8300HD and similar boxes that are approaching 20 years old. These had an SD guide and allowed for passthrough of the signals to the TV where the TV could upconvert.
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