EchoStar Communications Corp. will begin offering its first
pay-per-view movies in Dolby Laboratories Inc.'s Dolby Digital surround sound next
month, the company said.
The direct-broadcast satellite service also plans to start
selling an adapter module for $69 later this month, which will upgrade Dish Network model
4000 and model 5000 receivers to take advantage of the 5.1-channel audio format. The
company's model 4700 receiver is already Dolby Digital-compatible.
Dolby Digital is the upgraded surround-sound format found
in certain new theatrical movies and DVDs, and it was chosen as an audio standard for ATSC
(Advanced Television Systems Committee) high-definition television.
Home-theater buffs need additional Dolby Digital-compatible
audio components and surround-sound speakers to complete the experience.
DirecTV Inc. began offering its first Dolby Digital
pay-per-view movies last spring, and it currently airs up to three Dolby Digital-encoded
movies at any given time. DirecTV hardware vendors Thomson Consumer Electronics, Sony
Corp. and Hughes Network Systems market Dolby Digital-capable receivers.
DirecTV will add other Dolby Digital programming services
as they become available and as subscribers demand them, a spokesman for the company said.
Encore Media Group said it hopes to deliver some
programming on its premium-movie service, Starz!, in Dolby Digital to DBS customers this
spring, following a period of technical tests, according to spokesman Paul Jacobson.
Encore would also make the Dolby Digital service available
to cable operators once compatible set-top boxes hit the market later this year.
Jacobson said Starz! does not expect to charge subscribers
an additional monthly fee for the Dolby Digital feed. Not all films on Starz! would be
encoded in Dolby Digital initially, but recent blockbusters are more likely to be
available in the format, Jacobson said.
The company plans to identify the movies in Dolby Digital
before they begin so that viewers with surround-sound systems can prepare their equipment,
EchoStar said it would identify its Dolby Digital PPV
movies as such on its interactive programming guide.
Home Box Office is waiting for availability of the new
Dolby E encoding technology before it commits to the digital-audio format.
According to Craig Cuttner, the network's vice
president of technology operations, HBO plans to initially encode only HDTV movies with
Dolby Digital. Current HDTV content on the network does not use Dolby Digital yet.