Pay-per-view and video-on-demand programmer In Demand plans to launch a linear HDTV programming channel on Sept. 1 — filled with library movies, general-entertainment fare and, perhaps, live professional sports events — in a bid to help bolster cable's HD program lineup.
In Demand executives envision this as the first of three planned channels that would sit alongside ESPN HD, Discovery HD Theater and similar services within a programming tier. Operators appear to be moving in the direction of launching such tiers, selling in the $6 to $9 range, once they secure enough content.
"We wanted to try to help jump-start the HD initiative," said In Demand chief operating officer Rob Jacobson. "We want to provide a solution that can get more HD product to consumers at affordable prices."
The move could be seen as a sign that In Demand's MSO owners are keenly interested in adding more HD content. The nearest competitor to InDemandHD would be Mark Cuban's HDNet, which has a similar movie library and general-entertainment lineup.
In Demand has programming contracts with all the major studios in some form or another, as well as deals with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League for out-of-market games.
Jacobson said discussions with studios are underway regarding library product. In Demand is also talking with pro-sports leagues about carrying live games that aren't subject to other rights deals.
In Demand has obtained HD rights to a handful of new movie releases for VOD, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding
from HBO Films; The Ring
and Catch Me If You Can
from DreamWorks; and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, About Schmidt
and Friday After Next
from New Line Cinema.
Any movie shot on film, even if it debuted 20 years ago, can be upconverted to HD, Jacobson said.
Even Ben-Hur? "Everything looks better in HD," Jacobson replied.
In Demand currently has enough transponder capacity to launch the first HD feed in September, Jacobson said.
Over time, cable operators are expected to collapse their NVOD channel capacity — upward of 35 channels in some systems — as they offer VOD and HDTV. Those channels will come in handy for bandwidth-heavy HDTV.
At launch, InDemandHD plans to carry 12 hours of unique programming each day, repeated once, so the entire schedule will always be in HD. The channel will feature Dolby Digital 5.1 audio when available and showcase content in the 1080i format.
Additional channels In Demand hopes to launch will focus on movies and sports.