*** Pub Widescreen Sports Campaign ***

"The whole of the England team is stretched - almost to breaking point"
Mark Lawrenson, in the 69th minute of BBC One's live commentary for England's first game in the 2006 World Cup against Paraguay

As of the 23rd of August 2010, Sky Sports News commenced broadcasting in 16:9 widescreen format on the Sky Digital platform. As a result, pubs with incorrectly set-up equipment may experience missing picture and show important scorelines overflowing off the sides of their plasma TV screens. The fix instructions detailed below still apply, even though this page and campaign were created over four years ago. If you have found this website to be useful, please do donate a pint to me using the button below. I've faced abuse and ridicule in the past from pub landlords and managers for just trying to be helpful! Yes, you're amongst the lot, The Harrier in Hatfield's Bishop's Rise and The Golden Heart, Shoreditch!

Punters: scroll down to the bottom of this page to find the download link to the leaflets to distribute.

Spot the ball! Answer further down the page. Read the following first, though.

What's the purpose of this page?

It is to educate, encourage and assist pubs, bars and gyms in setting up their Sky TV and widescreen TVs/LCDs/Plasmas/Other Flat panels correctly - something that probably less than 10% of them all have actually managed to do. Although there is a focus on live football shown in pubs, this problem and solution applies to venues and programmes outside of this scope.

What is it that's so important that you've created a page on the internet for?

It is to do with the way the TV images are shown on the LCDs/plasmas/etc..

What do you mean? Our plasma looks fine - I don't see anything wrong with it!

Well, do the people on the TV appear to be stretched horizontally, making them look short and fat, compared to what you see on a standard non-widescreen televisions (see comparison pictures below)? If so, you have it set incorrectly - put basically, you have not opted to view widescreen broadcasts on your widescreen TVs!! Keep reading.

Incorrectly set: is this a conversion in a rugby match?!

"That's what you call a long ball!"
Clive Tyldesley, in the 24th minute of itv1's live commentary for England's Group B final position decider against Sweden

Correctly set: notice that you can see the AVAYA and Continental advert boards.

Aren't the point of widescreen TVs to make things look wide? I've even seen it in the shops!

That doesn't mean the shops have got it right in the first place. Shops don't have convenient access to Digital TV signals, and as analogue TV channels do not carry widescreen pictures, the shops just usually show the standard 4:3 (non-widescreen) pictures stretched out across the screen.
Back to the original point, the concept of widescreen is to give a cinema-experience: so do you see fat people on the (wide) cinema screens? Thought not. You shouldn't have to watch fat men chasing a rugby-shaped ball around a football pitch. Seriously! Widescreen TVs were made for widescreen programmes, not standard 4:3 programmes stretched out horizontally across the screen. The concept of Widescreen is to allow a greater field of vision to be shot by the camera, and seen by the viewer. If TV programmes have been planned for widescreen, shot in widescreen, recorded in widescreen, edited in widescreen, coded in widescreen, transmitted in widescreen... shouldn't you be watching in widescreen?

We've not had anyone else complain about this.

Most people are unaware of the problem, as they're all used to seeing stretched-out pictures in many places, including in their own homes. You can show them all how it's meant to be done. The broadcasters have spent so much time and effort in getting this additional viewing pleasure produced and delivered to you and your widescreen telly, and yet you're not even getting to see it.

Why do you care how we've got them set up, anyway?

I just find it sad to see so many places paying extortionate subscription fees to Sky for sports channels (I'm sure you've all moaned about it before!), and ALSO losing about a third of the transmitted picture. It's about time I did something to help soften the blow and to help you get *all* of what you're paying for.

What was that? As much as a third?!

Yep, if you've set it up incorrectly, your customers are basically missing out on the action to both the left and right hand side of the picture you're currently getting. See the comparison pictures above (World Cup) and below (Wimbledon).

Non-widescreen: Where's the umpire?

Widescreen: The whole of the court can be seen.

If you're watching live football on a stretched picture, it is much more difficult to follow the ball, as the effective picture is smaller. It's like trying to follow the football through a pair of binoculars - the ball is frequently out of vision. See the example below, taken from the FA Cup Third Round between Liverpool and Arsenal. Note that I didn't simulate a 4:3 stretch.

Penant whacks in a brilliant corner

Comes off Crouch's head for a shot on goal

Kuyt finishes off with a deflection

Apologies for the blurry pictures - I took them off videotape. In the above 4:3 versions of the match you didn't catch much, if any, of the football. But just to prove that they WERE present in the BBC broadcast and that the frames above WOULD have been viewable had you enabled widescreen (also known as 16:9 format), I've also included the full 16:9 versions below to see what you would have been missing out on.

OK, I've now been convinced. What do I have to do? How much does it cost to fix it?

I have posted up a set of instructions in the answer to the next question, and also in the PDF that is intended for distribution. You can download and view this at the bottom of this page. It's free to download, and it's free to apply the changes yourself with this very quick fix.

How long does this 'fix' of yours take to do? Is it legal? What is the fix?

You could probably do it in less than 10 seconds. Heck, of course it's legal! I personally think it should be made illegal for the wrong settings being used! ;)

1. On the Sky remote, press Services
2. Press 4 (System Setup)
3. Press 1 (Picture Settings)
4. Press the Left cursor key once to change Picture Format from 4:3 to 16:9
(Also change the second location to 16:9, especially if you use a TV link / Magic Eye. Change to 16:9 if unsure)
5. Press the Up cursor key and Select to Save New Settings
6. You're now done. Press Sky to return to the TV channel you were last viewing. You can now boast that you have now show true widescreen pictures, unlike 90% of your rivals who have absolutely no idea what they're doing wrong!!

(NEW 04/2007!) The video below shows the conversion from 4:3 to 16:9 on Sky and the sequence of screens you should encounter. Amusingly, the topic of the BBC News 24 report is vaguely apt!

Minor point: Be sure your widescreen TVs are set to "Wide" (or 16:9 on some TVs), and not 4:3, 14:9, Smart or Zoom.

I think I've applied the changes.. but how can I tell if it's worked or not?

Try a "widescreen channel", i.e. a channel that is broadcast in widescreen all of the time, such as Sky News or BBC News 24. You should see an obvious difference, like the sudden appearance of the white "Active" next to the red button in the bottom left corner.



(UPDATE 03/2007!) Sky News are no longer using the graphics above, and so the word "Active" no longer appears in the bottom left hand corner. Follow the guidelines below.



"They're stretching it"
BBC One's John Motson, during Extra Time of England's quarter final match against Portugal


It should be obvious in the pictures above that other than resizing the people's heads to the correct proportion, that the news station logos are a fair distance away from the left hand side of the screen. On a plasma screen, and depending on size, this distance should appear to be at around 3 or 4 inches, or even more.

Additionally, if you watch Sunrise on Sky News in the mornings, you will also notice the city weather box on the right hand side!

People still look short and fat on some channels! What am I doing wrong?

You're not doing anything wrong. Some channels haven't been converted to widescreen broadcasting at present, so they'll still look distorted. Some programmes on primarily widescreen (16:9 ratio) channels may not have been shot in widescreen, so occasionally, you may still see distorted pictures. Otherwise, set your TV's picture mode to 4:3 (note that this is on the TV and NOT on Sky). This will show black bars on either side of the screen. I find this much pleasing to the eye. Depending on your make and model of plasma TV, you may also find that it is clever enough to change automatically when widescreen programmes are/are not being broadcast. Look for the "Auto" mode on your TV.

So which channels are broadcast in widescreen?

Sky Sports channels (but not Sky Sports News), Premiership Plus, Setanta Sports, BBC1 through to BBC4 and all their other digital channels, itv1-4, Channel 4 and Five (including E4, More4, Five Life and Five US), Sky One through to Sky Three, Sky News, BBC News 24 and plenty more. As already mentioned, there may be some programmes not broadcast in widescreen. Some pub favourites like Sky Sports News, NASN and Eurosport do not broadcast in widescreen at present.

Was the 2006 World Cup and Wimbledon shown in widescreen? Will the RBS Six Nations tournament be shown in widescreen?

Yes, and provided that you'd/you've made the changes!

Wow! Thank you! The pictures on our plasmas looks so much better after the fix - no more fat people, and I can see more of the match! What can I do to thank you for your help?

Drop me an email to say you've applied the setting change (email address towards the bottom of this page), and feel free to donate some beer money to a thirsty campaigner using the button below! And if you do, I might even publicise your pub on this very page!

Also, don't forget to apply for a certificate to frame with pride! Details further down the page.

".. they're seeing more of the game."
Clive Tyldesley, in the 38th minute of itv1's live commentary for England v Trinidad & Tobago on 15 June 2006

We also have our Sky Digibox hooked up to a big-screen projector, and everyone looks thin through the projector!

Many projectors allow for 16:9 sources and can be adjusted accordingly. There may be an option in the menu whereby it will squash down the image vertically so people don't look thin. Look for the 16:9 mode on your projector's on-screen menus.

BEFORE: When given a 16:9 picture, people look thin through the projector.

AFTER: The picture is squashed back down into proportion.

STOP PRESS! 15th June update: Another suggestion, that has been sent in by Matthew, is that the Sky Digibox should be put into 4:3L mode, rather than 16:9 mode. This will simulate the 16:9 image on 4:3 screens. All widescreen TV's will need to be put into "Zoom" mode, rather than "Wide" modes to maintain the proportion. Thanks for this, Matthew. This is a good suggestion that I support. I will, however, mention one downfall: by zooming the 4:3L image, there will be a loss of resolution compared to using 16:9: You'd only be seeing around 432 horizontal lines compared to 576 if you used the 16:9/wide combination settings. I have seen many instances where jagged edges will appear in the picture, depending on the quality of the TV set. However, I'd still prefer this to watching stretched pictures!

We don't use Sky Digital. Are we missing out?

Not necessarily. If you're still watching the analogue channels through your aerial, then there isn't much you can do, as the channels don't actually broadcast in widescreen on analogue. BBC1, BBC2, itv1, Channel 4 and five only broadcast in widescreen on digital. If you use Freeview or digital cable, then look for the "Aspect Ratio" setting in your set top box's settings. Email me if you're lost.

Why was it set incorrectly in the first place?

Beats me.. either it's because your Sky installation contractor took a naughty shortcut and hoped you wouldn't notice, or perhaps you installed your plasma screen after your Sky had been installed, in which case you probably weren't aware of the widescreen issue and had little idea on what you were missing out on.

We don't have any widescreen TVs at our pub, but we'd still like to show the entire transmitted picture. Is this possible?

Certainly. You can either choose to go for the 4:3L in "picture settings", where you will see the full picture, but also with black bars along the top and bottom. Alternatively, if you're not a fan of bars, select 16:9 and you'll see the full picture. The image will look a tad thin, but at least you're seeing everything. The results will be the same as the comparison images in the answer to "We also have our Sky Digibox hooked up to a big-screen projector, and everyone looks thin through the projector!" above.

For the technically minded: If you're opting for the first method, you might want to see if your projector offers a 16:9 aspect ratio: check the on-screen menus on your projector's remote control. If it does, you'll find that by putting your Sky Digibox on 16:9 mode, and also setting your projector to 16:9, you'll be showing more horizontal lines, essentially meaning there's more detail being projected.

We already have Sky HD. Do we need to apply the settings?

The High Definition format states that all programming should be provided and delivered in 16:9 format. As a result, the setting has effectively already been applied for you. So the answer is no. You might want to make sure that any other non-HD Set-Top Boxes you have are set up correctly.

You're the best!

My pleasure.

The (now) obvious answer to the "Spot The Ball" teaser posed at the top of the page.

For additional assistance, please email me via this form


Download the PDF instruction set NOW (updated 01/2007!) for printing and distribution during pub crawls. Keep several in your wallet as you never know when you might need one! Note: In Adobe Reader, be sure to print with the following settings: "Fit to printer margins" and "Print as image". Instructions have been laid out in sets of four for the purposes of cutting and handing out.
It is commonplace for a complimentary drink to be offered to you by the landlord or manager for your help in correcting their Digibox. But please don't create a scene if you don't get offered one!! Do, however, let me know of your experiences.


Apply for a certificate to stick up on your window, door or on the bar wall to stand out from the crowd and advertise the fact that you DO show true widescreen pictures. Email me for your copy. Click here for an example (link now removed).

Quick notes:
Widescreen programming does not exist on analogue transmissions, except for the rare programme on Channel 4, but even then, it's not in "anamorphic widescreen" (look it up on the internet!).
16:9 settings can also be applied to Digital Cable and Freeview - please email for more information.

External Links and Resources:
Article about this campaign featured in The Publican
as part of their Six Nations 2007 feature. (NEW 01/2007!)
Article about this campaign featured in the Morning Advertiser, also featured in their print edition.

Another article about this campaign featured in The Publican (brief, but to the point)
Widescreen info from the BBC
Widescreen info from BBC Sport
Widescreen info from itv (West)
(More helpful, and addresses the problem)
Irish National Broadcaster RTE's page about their widescreen programming and settings that ought to be applied. However, ignore the "Picture Alignment" illustration - it seems to be incorrect and entirely misleading.
Australia's National Broadcaster ABC's page about their widescreen programming.
Digital Trends has an article ranting on about the incorrect use of widescreen.

Pubs showing High Definition (HD) Sports:
See which pubs are showing football and other live sports in HD on this Sky website: Click here (link updated 01/2007!)

Supporters of the Pub Widescreen Football campaign:
Cardiff Pubs
Sheffield Pub Guide
Marathon Drinkers
Pub Toilets
Skegness Pubs, Clubs and Nightclubs

Reponses/results from the campaign:
- Generally, independently-owned pubs are more open to advice about their televisions. They are also happy to allow campaigners access to the Sky Digibox to make the relevant changes.
- Mitchells & Butlers HQ had been contacted by myself via email when I complained that a certain pub had incorrect settings. Although responses weren't the quickest, they took thorough action in all pubs in the local cluster, and also gave me a full reply by telephone. Correct changes to the original pub's Digibox I had complained about have been verified by myself. I offer my congratulations for such a thorough response.
- Approaching pubs owned by The Spirit Group proved to be far more difficult. Managers were incredibly reluctant to make any changes and many were simply not interested in the slightest about the campaign. All who have been encountered by myself insisted that such suggestions and changes should be made through head office. Emails to HQ were acknowledged, but little action appears to have taken place so far. The customer advisor at the other end of the (email) line DID, however, wish me luck with my campaign, but this was too little, too late, for screens to be displaying the correct picture before the World Cup had started. 11/06: I also contacted various people from The Spirit Group's Supplies and Services department. I initially spoke to a guy called Ken Malarkey who showed interest and knowledge. Eventually, he had left his particular post and asked that I dealt with Catherine Lund. Initially, Catherine had shown interested and appeared to like the idea that I produced a guide containing easy-to-understand explanations and fixes of the problem that she could pass on to BDMs. Unfortunately on my second contact, Catherine was far less enthusiastic about the campaign, and was close to the point of ridiculing it. She made the suggestion that I could send her the guide if I had wanted to - a hint that she wasn't really excited by the idea. I sent her a copy of the guide, anyway, as I'd spent time and effort in creating it. I also asked her to provide feedback, but have heard nothing so far.
- Greene King responses were varied. Although there was no reply whatsoever via the email form on their official website, managers of individual pubs sometimes welcomed the changes and were happy to apply them. Others, however, were not in the slightest interested. 11/06: I spoke to Sara from the Purchases department, who deals with TVs in Greene King pubs. I'd informed her about the campaign and suggested that I could create a guide for her to slip into manager manuals. She told me it was pointless as the managers would most likely be ignoring the existing manual altogether. Little enthusiasm was shown. 27/12/06: MD Mark Angela was recently quoted as saying: "Sport is an integral part of our business and we invest heavily in Sky and large flat screens to give customers the best possible sporting experience in hundreds of our community pubs up and down the country." To test the integrity of that claim, I sent his secretary a modified copy of the specially-produced guide I had originally made for The Spirit Group (see above). I've yet to hear from either of them.

Website feedback (NEW 11/2006!):

Hello. I too have convinced my local to press a few buttons the other night. Rapturous applause and a free pint was my reward!!! Thanks, mate. Love your campaign! Jon, Reigate

Finally............ Just for fun:
Nothing to do with the campaign whatsoever, but it's just rather funny! Enjoy!

Email me