A&E's the Next Net To Enter HDTV Fray

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A&E Television Networks is dipping its toe into the HDTV waters, joining several more high-profile, HD-conscious basic networks inside the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's HD Pavilion at June's National Show in Chicago.

AETN will show off two series in the HD Pavilion: the original movie The Crossing, and an episode from The History Channel's miniseries Gold, said A&E Networks senior vice president of affiliate sales David Zagin.

Another batch of AETN content will be part of an HD promotional reel, which will appear in another part of the exhibit. The company will supply short HD clips from an array of fare, including Live by Request, The Great Gatsby, Cold Case Files
and 100 Centre Street
from A&E; The History Channel's The Grand Canyon
and Modern Marvels; and selected material from The Biography Channel.

"We think HDTV is important, but we also need to take some time to actually look at the plan," Zagin said. "We're taking a serious look at how quickly and how much we'll ramp up. We're looking at maybe ramping up some production, shooting some films in 2003 and 2004 in digital."

Currently, Live by Request
is the only show that A&E films in HD. The other content on display at The National Show will be product that was shot on film, but later upconverted to the enhanced format.

Zagin said A&E is presently in discussions with HD aggregators — principally HDNet and In Demand — about supplying content that would be part of an aggregate HDTV channel.

"We don't have enough content yet to support a 24-hour network," Zagin said. But partnering with an aggregator could make sense.

"If they are successful at gaining product, I think it could help HD," he said. "You could put quality product on one platform and it's a nice entreé to get your brands out into the HD environment without much expense.

"We're talking to aggregators about the revenue implications and opportunities, as well as the cost implications," he continued. "The aggregator model will be a great promotion platform for your linear networks."

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