High-definition television in the United States

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High-definition television (HDTV) in the United States was introduced in 1998 and has since become increasingly popular and dominant in the television market. Hundreds of HD channels are available in millions of homes and businesses both terrestrially and via subscription services such as satellite, cable and IPTV. HDTV has quickly become the standard, with about 85% of all TVs used being HD as of 2018.[1][failed verification] In the US, the 720p and 1080i formats are used for linear channels, while 1080p is available on a limited basis, mainly for pay-per-view and video on demand content. Some networks have also began transmitting content at 1080p via ATSC 3.0 multiplex channels, with CBS and NBC affiliates being the main stations that transmit at 1080p.

Proposals and introduction[edit]

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began soliciting proposals for a new television standard for the U.S. in the late 1980s and later decided to ask companies competing to create the standard to pool their resources and work together, forming what was known as the Grand Alliance in 1993.

On July 23, 1996, WRAL-TV (the then CBS affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina; now affiliated with NBC) became the first television station in the United States to broadcast a digital television signal.[2]

HDTV sets became available in the U.S. in 1998 and broadcasts began around November 1998. The first public HDTV broadcast was of the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery and John Glenn's return to space; that broadcast was made possible in part by the Harris Corporation.[3] The first commercial broadcast of a local sporting event in HD was during Major League Baseball's Opening Day on March 31, 1998, the Texas Rangers against the Chicago White Sox from The Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, TX. The telecast was produced by LIN Productions, and overseen by LIN Productions president and Texas Rangers television executive producer Lee Spieckerman. The game was also the inaugural telecast on the digital channel of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas NBC affiliate KXAS channel 5. The event was simultaneously shown via satellite at a reception attended by members of congress, the FCC and members of the industry in Washington, DC. This telecast was also the first commercial HD broadcast in the state of Texas.[4] The first major sporting event broadcast nationwide in HD was Super Bowl XXXIV, broadcast by ABC on January 30, 2000. By the 2014–15 season every network show producing new episodes had transitioned to high definition.[5]

Satellite and cable[edit]

Satellite television companies in the United States, such as Dish Network and DirecTV, started to carry HD programming in 2003. Satellite transmissions in the U.S. use various forms of PSK modulation. A separate tuner is required to receive HD satellite broadcasts.

Cable television companies in the U.S. generally prefer to use 256-QAM to transmit HDTV. Many of the newer HDTVs with integrated digital tuners include support for decoding 256-QAM in addition to 8VSB for OTA digital. Cable television companies started carrying HDTV in 2003.

Currently, HD programming is carried by all major television networks in nearly all DMAs, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, The CW, MyNetworkTV, Telemundo, Univision, and UniMás; and on many independent stations. All but a select few of cable networks offer an HD broadcast to cable and satellite companies.

HD programming on broadcast and premium networks such as HBO and Showtime had Dolby Digital 5.1.

List of current American high-definition channels[edit]

Name First-launched HD service HD Format[6] Letterbox/Pillarbox Category Type
A&E September 4, 2006 1080i N/A Entertainment Cable
ABC September 16, 2001 720p Pillarbox (2001–2016)
Letterbox (2016–present)
AccuWeather Network March 10, 2015 1080i N/A News Cable
Adult Swim October 15, 2007 Pillarbox (2007–2013)
Letterbox (2013–present)
Altitude N/A Sports - Regional
AMC Entertainment
American Heroes Channel
Animal Planet Lifestyle
AT&T SportsNet April 1, 2011 1080p Sports – Regional
ASPiRE June 27, 2012 1080i Entertainment
AWE June 1, 2004 1080i Lifestyle
AXS TV September 6, 2001 Entertainment
Azteca July 16, 2012 Broadcast – Spanish Broadcast
BBC America July 20, 2009 Entertainment Cable
BBC World News August 5, 2013 News
beIN Sports June 1, 2012 720p Sports
beIN Sports en Español Sports – Spanish
BET March 23, 2011 1080i Entertainment
Big Ten Network 2009 720p Sports - College
Bloomberg TV May 9, 2011 1080i News
Boomerang (TV network) March 4, 2019 720p Family
Bravo 2007 1080i Lifestyle
Cars.TV May 2009 Sports
Cartoon Network October 15, 2007 Pillarbox (2007–2013)
Letterbox (2013–present)
CBS September 1998 Pillarbox (1998–2018)
Letterbox (2018–present)
CBS Sports Network August 2008 Sports Cable
Cinemax (MoreMax, ActionMax, ThrillerMax, 5starMax, MovieMax, OuterMax, MaxLatino) September 1, 2008 Premium Movies Premium
CMT N/A Entertainment Cable
CNBC October 10, 2007 News
CNN September 6, 2007
Comedy Central January 13, 2009 Entertainment
Comedy.TV May 2009
Cooking Channel March 31, 2008 Lifestyle
Crime & Investigation Network April 1, 2005 720p Pillarbox Entertainment
The CW September 18, 2006 1080i Broadcast
Daystar N/A 720p Religion Cable
Destination America March 31, 2008 1080i Lifestyle
Discovery Channel June 2002 Entertainment
Discovery en Español July 2016 Spanish
Discovery Familia July 2016 Spanish
Discovery Family October 10, 2010 Family
Discovery Life February 1, 2011 Lifestyle
Disney Channel March 19, 2008 720p Pillarbox (2008–2017)
Letterbox (2017–present)
Disney Junior March 23, 2012 Pillarbox (2012–2017)
Letterbox (2017–present)
Disney XD February 13, 2009 Pillarbox (2009–2017)
Letterbox (2017–present)
E! December 8, 2008 1080i Lifestyle
Epix (Epix 2, Epix Hits) October 30, 2009 Premium Movies
ES.TV May 2009 Entertainment Cable
ESPN March 30, 2003 720p Sports
ESPN2 January 2005
ESPNews March 30, 2008
ESPNU March 23, 2010
ESPN Deportes January 7, 2004 Sports – Spanish
EVINE Live February 13, 2015 1080i Shopping
Flix August 1, 1992 Premium Movies Premium
FM September 30, 2015 Music Cable
Food Network March 31, 2008 Lifestyle
Fox September 12, 2004 720p Pillarbox (2004–2007)
Letterbox (2007–present)
Fox Business Network October 15, 2007 News Cable
Fox Deportes N/A Sports – Spanish
Fox News Channel April 29, 2008 News
FS1 N/A Sports
Fox Soccer Plus June 15, 2010
Fox Sports Networks (All Networks) July 2010 Sports – Regional
Freeform 2008 Family
Fuse N/A 1080i Music
FX 2007 720p Entertainment
FXM Movies
FXX September 2, 2013 Entertainment
FYI January 1, 1999 Lifestyle
GAC Family October 1, 2013 1080i Family
GAC Living 2014 Lifestyle
Galavisión June 1, 2010 Spanish
Gol TV August 1, 2010 Sports – Spanish
Golf Channel January 2007 Sports
Game Show Network September 15, 2010 Entertainment
Hallmark Channel N/A Family
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries January 20, 2004 Movies
HBO (HBO2, HBO Comedy, HBO Family, HBO Latino, HBO Signature, HBO Zone) March 6, 1999 Premium Movies Premium
HDNet Movies January 13, 2003 Movies Cable
HGTV March 31, 2008 Lifestyle
History January 2008 Entertainment
HLN December 15, 2008 News
HSN August 2009 Shopping
IFC 2007 Movies
Investigation Discovery N/A Entertainment
Ion February 16, 2009 720p Broadcast
Justice Central N/A 1080i News Cable
Lifetime April 16, 2008 Lifestyle
LMN June 29, 1998
Logo TV June 30, 2005
Magnolia Network May 1, 2010
MASN (MASN2) September 16, 2008 Sports – Regional
MAVTV October 1, 2004 Sports
Mega TV March 1, 2006 Broadcast – Spanish
MGM HD October 10, 2007 Movies Premium
Midco Sports Network N/A Sports – Regional Cable
Minnesota Channel October 2012 Entertainment Broadcast
MLB Network December 17, 2008 720p Sports Cable
MLB StrikeZone
Motor Trend June 17, 2002 1080i
The Movie Channel (The Movie Channel Xtra) December 1, 2003 Premium Movies Premium
MoviePlex (IndiePlex, RetroPlex) February 11, 2010
MSG (MSG Plus, MSG Western New York) January 22, 2009 Sports – Regional Cable
MSNBC June 29, 2009[7] News
MTV January 2006 Entertainment
MTV2 2012
MTV Live January 16, 2006 Music
MyDestination.TV N/A Lifestyle
MyNetworkTV September 5, 2006 720p Broadcast
Nat Geo Wild March 29, 2010 Lifestyle Cable
National Geographic January 2006 Entertainment
NBA TV October 30, 2007 1080i Sports
NBC April 26, 1999 Pillarbox (1999–2002)
Letterbox (2002–present)
NBC Sports Regional Networks 2010 Sports – Regional Cable
NBC Universo February 1, 2015 Spanish
NESN April 2006 Sports – Regional
Newsmax TV June 16, 2014 News
NewsNation N/A
NFL Network August 2004 Sports
NFL RedZone September 13, 2009
NHL Network October 1, 2007
Nick at Nite November 14, 2007 Pillarbox (2007-2020)
Letterbox (2020-present)
Nicktoons August 13, 2013 Pillarbox (2013–2020)
Letterbox (2020–present)
Nick Jr. Channel August 1, 2013
One America News Network July 4, 2013 News
Outdoor Channel 2004 Sports
Ovation July 2010 Lifestyle
OWN January 1, 2011
Oxygen March 2011
Pac-12 Network August 15, 2012 Sports – College
Paramount Network N/A Entertainment
PBS March 1, 2004 Both Broadcast
Pets.TV N/A Lifestyle Cable
Playboy TV 2008 Adult
Pop N/A Lifestyle
QVC May 2009 Shopping
Recipe.TV N/A Lifestyle
Reelz August 1, 2010 720p Entertainment
Revolt October 21, 2013 1080i Music
RFD-TV July 26, 2007 Lifestyle
Science September 1, 2009 Lifestyle
SEC Network August 14, 2014 720p Sports - College
ShortsTV February 17, 2010 1080i Movies
Showtime (Showtime 2, Showcase, Showtime Extreme, SHO×BET, Showtime Next, Showtime Women) July 25, 2013 Premium Movies Premium
Smithsonian Channel September 26, 2007 Lifestyle Cable
SNY March 16, 2006 Sports – Regional
Sony Movie Channel October 1, 2010 Movies
Spectrum SportsNet LA February 25, 2014 Sports – Regional
Spectrum SportsNet N/A
Sportsman Channel January 25, 2010 Sports
Starz (Starz Comedy, Starz Edge, Starz Kids and Family, Starz InBlack, Starz Cinema) December 2003 Premium Movies Premium
Starz Encore (Starz Encore, Starz Encore Action, Starz Encore Black, Starz Encore Classic, Starz Encore Suspense) March 22, 2003
SundanceTV July 1, 2011 Movies Cable
Syfy October 3, 2007 Entertainment
TBS September 1, 2007 Pillarbox (2007–2010)
Letterbox (2010–present)
TCM June 2009 Movies
Telemundo April 23, 2009 Broadcast – Spanish Broadcast
TeenNick July 2011 Family Cable
Tennis Channel December 31, 2007 Sports
TLC September 1, 2007 Lifestyle
TNT May 21, 2004 Entertainment
Travel Channel N/A Lifestyle
truTV March 2011 Entertainment
TUDN April 7, 2012 Sports – Spanish
TV Land November 2011 Family
TV One January 19, 2004 Entertainment
UniMás January 1, 2010 Broadcast – Spanish Broadcast
Universal Kids September 2010 Pillarbox (2010–2013)
Letterbox (2013–present)
Family Cable
Univision January 1, 2010 Broadcast – Spanish Broadcast
UP tv N/A Family Cable
USA Network October 2007 Entertainment
Viceland February 29, 2016 Lifestyle
VH1 2005 Entertainment
WE tv N/A Lifestyle
The Weather Channel September 26, 2007 News
WeatherNation TV October 27, 2011
World Fishing Network November 2007 Sports
YES July 2004 Sports – Regional

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "HDTV SETS NOW IN OVER 80% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS". Leichtman Research Group. March 13, 2015. Archived from the original on May 13, 2015. Retrieved November 26, 2022.
  2. ^ History of WRAL Digital
  3. ^ "HDTV: Launched and Counting". Broadcasting and Cable. BNET. November 2, 1998. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved October 24, 2008.
  4. ^ First HDTV Baseball Game. Jivyjives. December 6, 2009 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ End of an era: the last US broadcast network TV shows finally switch from SD to HD. Diverse Tech Geek. 11 June 2014.
  6. ^ "HD Channels". HD Report. Retrieved March 19, 2023.
  7. ^ "MSNBC to Go HD on June 29". TVWeek. April 2, 2009. Retrieved November 26, 2022.