EchoStar Communications Corp. plans to deliver a nationwide high-definition feed from CBS Television to its Dish Network subscribers starting this fall.
"CBS as a network has led the charge" in the transition to digital television, Dish Network vice president of programming Michael Schwimmer said. Making the feed available nationally will help speed the rollout of digital television sets into consumers' homes, he added.
Not all Dish customers will be eligible for the feed. Those eligible include all subscribers who live in a "white area," or outside the range of a local CBS broadcast signal, as well as Dish customers who purchase a local-broadcast package within a CBS owned-and-operated market. CBS affiliates can choose to authorize the national HD feed to be delivered via satellite, although Schwimmer said it's too early to say which affiliates would participate.
The CBS O&O markets include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Detroit, Dallas, Miami, Minneapolis, Denver, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, Austin, Texas, and Green Bay, Wisc.
Because the number of digital-television set owners remains so small, the risk that local broadcasters could lose ratings points or advertiser eyeballs to the national feed is minimal today, Schwimmer said.
Dish subscribers won't pay an additional fee for the CBS national HD feed as long as they already subscribe to a broadcast-channel package from the direct-broadcast satellite company.
EchoStar will deliver the CBS national feed from satellites at the 148 degrees and 61.5 degrees west longitude orbital locations. Dish subscribers would need special Dish receivers and antennas, as well as a compatible digital television set, to see the signals in HD.
Dish Network customers who buy the company's Model 6000 HDTV receiver can purchase a separate module that will pull in broadcaster's local HDTV feeds.
Because of satellite capacity issues, it would not be feasible for Dish Network to carry HDTV signals from local broadcasters around the country, Schwimmer said.
Currently, CBS delivers primetime sitcoms and dramas, as well as sports programming, in HD. Earlier this summer, the network added daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless
to its HDTV schedule.
Cable operators also carry HD feeds from broadcast networks on a market-by-market basis.
In addition to the broadcast network programming, Dish Network offers HD content from premium movie networks Home Box Office and Showtime, as well as five or six pay-per-view movies each month.
DirecTV Inc., which also offers premium and PPV programming in HDTV, had no deals to announce with CBS at press time regarding a national HD feed, according to a DirecTV spokesman.
EchoStar remains open to talking to other broadcast networks about delivering their HDTV programming, Schwimmer said.