In Demand Nets HD Carriage From Its MSO Co-Owners


In Demand's ownership base has proven beneficial to its efforts to gain distribution for its new HDTV channels, sources said last week.

Co-owners Comcast Corp., Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable, along with BrightHouse Networks, have committed to carrying the channels at launch, although it's unclear whether the linear channels would appear as part of the MSOs' digital-basic packages or on HDTV-based pay tiers, according to sources close to the situation.

Where possible, the three MSOs will carry a preview feed of the HDTV channels, which start July 21.

The carriage deals would help shore up HDTV's content base. Home Box Office and Showtime offer much of their schedule in HDTV; Starz is slated to join its premium brethren by year-end.

Discovery and ESPN have launched HDTV tiers, to varying degrees of carriage success. Bravo is about to launch a service July 31, while Mark Cuban's HDNet services have gained some carriage from Charter Communications Inc. Cable operators are also carrying local broadcast station's HDTV feeds for free, depending on market-by-market distribution deals.

The first of In Demand's HDTV channels will focus on movie content. The other channel will be a mix of movies, entertainment and sporting events. At launch, each channel will launch with 12 hours of unique programming each day.

The pre-emptability of the second channel would help MSOs get the most out of their HDTV bandwidth. Fox Sports signed a deal with Time Warner Cable to carry local HD sporting events in seven markets, starting this fall.

Sources said Time Warner could, for instance, pre-empt a secondary network and put regional sports content in that slot, without taking up more channel space.

Both channels would be available in wide screen, HDTV with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. In Demand said that it's working with server vendors and set-top manufacturers about delivering HD in 1080i format.

In Demand licenses movies from all of the major studios. It also recently announced deals with The Tennis Channel, Hallmark Channel and CSTV: College Sports Television.