Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dish HD Giveth and Dish HD Taketh Away

Today is May 14th and Dish Network HD package subscribers are seeing some drastic changes in their channel lineups. I'm delighted to see the addition of MGM HD, about which I've heard very good things and from which I've already recorded a stupefyingly beautiful copy of the John Carradine programmer REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES (!) and a lovely letterboxed transfer of BLAST OFF (aka THOSE FANTASTIC FLYING FOOLS), not available on DVD. There is also now Cartoon Network HD, Bio HD, ABC Family HD, Universal HD (which I stopped counting as a premium channel when they began including HD commercial interruptions in their HD movies), and many others, some of which are in Stretch-O-Vision rather than real HD. There are also some new non-HD channels, such as the Universal horror channel Chiller. Thanks to Chiller, I'm now snugly back in the nightly habit of watching THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR.

HOWEVER. And it's a BIG, mother-loving HOWEVER.

Overnight, without warning, all 15 of Dish Network's VOOM channels suddenly disappeared, including my beloved Monsters HD. (The night before, ten of the channels vanished from the Dish channel grid, also without prior warning.) After struggling through the English language with a Dish tech for several unsatisfying minutes, I asked to be referred to their supervisor, who informed me that Monsters, World, Kung Fu, Gallery, Rave, Animania and nine other VOOM channels are presently off the Dish schedule... even though there are new channels assigned for each of these stations on the programming grids on the Dish website. I was told that Dish is currently negotiating with the provider of these stations for their return, in which case they will either be reintroduced as a special package (for which we'll likely be charged a still higher monthly rate) or reintegrated into the lineup. Of course, they might be gone for good. Well, not for good -- for ever.

This situation must come as quite a surprise to my friend David Sehring, the head guy at Monsters HD, who e-mailed me not long ago to inform me of some of the great new titles headed to the high-definition channel this summer -- including the English-language version of BLACK SABBATH. Just within the past few weeks, Monsters HD has shown a number of Hammer titles new to their lineup, including ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HORROR OF DRACULA (a different transfer than the standard ratio version aired last month on another HD channel) and an especially exquisite-looking presentation of the 1959 version of THE MUMMY. I assume it's carried by other satellite providers, but not by any that I know of in this country.

Many indignant Dish subscribers will likely find themselves now in the uncomfortable position of wanting to dump what is essentially, without the VOOM channels, a pricier subscription service to fewer channels and sign up with the cheaper, more HD-generous DirecTV-- but knowing that would entail returning their DVR hard drives. In my case, that's more than 50 movies in standard and high def that I'm storing in permanent HD quality or waiting to be dubbed for burning to disc. And a lot of the stuff I've recorded from Monsters, World and Kung Fu doesn't turn up on other HD channels.

Dish is promising to have more than a hundred HD channels in place by year's end. Will the VOOM channels be among them? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please add your name to this online petition to bring Monsters HD and the other VOOM channels back.

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