Cable Operators

Voom Will Pump Up Its HDTV Capacity

11/28/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

Cablevision Systems Corp.’s Voom HDTV satellite subsidiary has had difficulty attracting new customers with its current offering of 39 high-definition channels — but looks to boost growth next March by adding another 31 such services.

Rainbow also said Voom would add about 200 standard-definition channels in March.

Officials declined to discuss the names of the new HDTV channels Voom will launch, or the genres they will serve.

But several trademarks Voom recently obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office point to possibilities, including crime and martial arts channels. The company trademarked the brands Vice HD, Kung Fu HD and Docs HD.

Voom, which has lost subscribers since it began charging for its programming service last spring, counted 26,000 customers at the end of September. It had lost 2,000 customers since the end of August.

Some analysts said while Voom does offer more HDTV channels than other satellite and cable competitors, its exclusive programming strategy hasn’t resulted in growth.

“Voom has taken the bull by the horns and they’re leading it down the street. But the problem is they’re not getting the subscribers,” said The Carmel Group satellite analyst and consultant Jimmy Schaeffler.

Niche programming channels in Voom’s lineup include Animania HD, Auction HD, Equator HD, Gallery HD, HD News, Monsters HD, Moov HD, Rave HD, Rush HD, Ultra HD and WorldSport HD.

Rainbow also recently rebranded several networks in Voom’s HDCinema10 package, including renaming one Divine HD, showing movies Voom said would appeal to gay viewers.

One hurdle to adding subscribers has been the up-front equipment cost. Voom has charged customers $199 for activation and installation and $9.50 per month to lease a HDTV set-top.

Addressing that, Voom is running a holiday promotion for the next few weeks offering new customers activation and installation fees of just $1, plus monthly set-top lease charges of $5 per box for up to three set-tops, Voom spokeswoman Bo Park said.

Voom also signed a contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. for five Ka-band satellites, the first of which will launch in about 34 months. The satellites will enable channel capacity to grow beyond the 5,000 HD channels that could be offered in spot-beam mode.

Voom didn’t disclose which channels it would offer via the new Lockheed Martin birds. But that capacity could accommodate HDTV channels from local broadcasters.

Currently, Voom subscribers must use an off-air antenna to receive local HDTV broadcasts.

September