Cranking The HD Heat


The high-definition arms race continues to escalate, with aggressive lineup expansions unveiled by Dish Network, DirecTV and Verizon Communications’s FiOS TV.

At least for now, Dish Network and Verizon seem to be ahead in the battle to roll out the most national HD networks, as both said they plan to offer up to 150 national HD channels by year's-end.

Dish Network’s news followed DirecTV’s announcement that it plans to raise its HD channel count to 130 starting in mid-August, and that it is launching local HD channels in 44 new markets.

The satellite providers aren’t the only one ramping up their HDTV rosters.Verizon said it is offering 100 HD networks to FiOS TV customers in the New York metro area, while Cablevision Systems Corp. is increasing its free HDTV count to more than 60 by adding 15 more HD networks.

Dish Network, the nation’s second-largest satellite provider, also boasted that its video-on-demand service will be the first in the pay-TV industry to offer HDTV programming in 1080p, the highest-resolution HD format and the one used by Blu-ray HD DVDs.

DirecTV plans to begin offering 1080p-quality VOD titles by the end of the year.

In its announcement, Dish Network said it has the capacity to offer up to 150 HD channels with the July 16 launch of its Echo XI satellite. In turn, the satellite provider added 17 national HD channels, bringing it above its previous 100-channel HD target for the year.

In addition, Dish Network is debuting TurboHD, three all-HD programming packages. The three TurboHD tiers are: Bronze ($24.99/month for more than 40 channels), Silver ($32.99/month for more than 50 channels) and Gold ($39.99/month for more than 55 HD channels).

To deliver the 1080p content, Dish Network started rolling out a system upgrade Aug. 1 to all customers with MPEG-4 HD and HD digital video recorder receivers.