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TV's Answer Man

Why Does My TV's Picture Quality Keep Changing?
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2013) -- Editor's Note: TV's Answer Man, aka Swanni, takes your questions regarding how to best use the latest products and services in TV technology. If you have a question about TV technology, ask TV's Answer Man by sending an e-mail to swann@tvpredictions.com

Q. I have DIRECTV and sometimes it seems like the picture on HBO and some of the other channels is better than at other times. Is this true or am I seeing things? -- Bonnie, Viera, Florida.

Bonnie, you are not seeing things. DIRECTV and other TV providers will sometimes raise or lower the bitrate it uses to transmit a channel's signal. In laymen's terms, that means the TV provider will lower or raise the strength of the signal.

Why would it do this?

Lowering the signal strength can allow the TV provider to include more data, or channels, into a satellite space or cable spectrum. For instance, if DIRECTV decides to offer multiple-channel coverage of the NFL Sunday Ticket or another one-day sporting event, it might lower the bitrate for some other channels to create room for the extra channels. Then, when the sporting event is over, DIRECTV will likely raise the channels' bitrate back to its normal level.

This is why you might notice that the HD picture on one channel looks better on some days compared to others.

This practice is so often used that channels will sometimes require a TV provider to transmit their signals at a minimum bitrate. The channels realize that a lower bitrate will diminish their picture quality and hurt their reputation with viewers.


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