Dish Ups HD Ante With Promise of 150 Channels


The high-definition arms race continues to escalate, with Dish Network set to announce Thursday that it plans to offer up to 150 national HD channels by the end of 2008.

Dish also is touting that its video-on-demand service will be the first in the pay-TV industry to offer high-definition programming in 1080p, the highest-resolution HD format and the one used by Blu-ray HD DVDs.

In addition, the direct-broadcast satellite operator 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).

Dish said it has the capacity to offer up to 150 HD channels with the July 16 launch of its Echo XI satellite. As previously announced, Dish is adding 17 national HD channels this week, bringing it over the previous 100-channel HD target for the year.

Dish’s announcement comes the same week DirecTV announced plans to raise its HD channel count to 130 next month, and Verizon Communications said it is offering 100 to FiOS TV customers in the New York metro area. Verizon has also announced a target of 150 HDs by the end of 2008.

Starting Aug. 1, Dish will offer Warner Bros.’ 2007 sci-fi thriller I Am Legend in 1080p resolution, for a limited-time discount of $2.99 (compared with $6.99 regularly).

For now, I Am Legend is the only 1080p title that will be available, but the DBS operator plans to add more over the next few months, corporate communications director Francie Bauer said.

Earlier this week, DirecTV also said it plans to begin offering 1080p-quality VOD titles by the end of 2008.

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

The 17 national HD channels Dish is adding to its lineup are: ActionMax HD, CBS College Sports HD, Lifetime HD, Lifetime Movie Network HD, Planet Green HD, Encore HD, HBO 2 HD, HBO Comedy HD, HBO Family HD, HBO Latino HD, HBO Signature HD, HBO West HD, HBO Zone HD, Starz Comedy HD, Starz Edge HD, Starz Kids & Family HD and Starz West HD.