History, Starz, HITS Join HD Party

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Las Vegas -- Networks’ migration to the HD format continues apace with a spate of services announcing service launches.

The History Channel HD will take its first public step into the enhanced format in September, when the 24-hour service bows on DirecTV. The new service will simulcast the network’s entire lineup of original, nonfiction programming and specials.

The feed will feature such diverse fare as series Lost Worlds, Dogfights, Digging for the Truth, Cities of the Underworld and Mega Disasters,and the recently announcedIce Road Truckers, The Universe and Human Weapon, plus specials such as Star Wars: The LegacyRevealed, The Lost Book of Nostradamus, The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth and Stalking Jihad.

“The History Channel HD will give our History fanatics an unparalleled view of history with stunning clarity and rich perspective that they will find nowhere else on the television landscape,” said David Zagin, executive vice president of distribution at History parent A&E Television Networks, in a prepared statement. “We are equally delighted that DirecTV, one of the nation’s largest programming distributors, will be there with us from the beginning of this exciting launch. We look forward to many more partnerships with distributors to bring The History Channel HD to their consumers.”

History HD will join sister network A&E HD -- which launched last year -- on DirecTV come September.

“The History Channel has a large and passionate following among our customers, and we’re looking forward to being the first to provide them with their favorite programming in true HD,” DirecTV executive vice president of strategy and development Derek Chang said in a prepared statement. “Both The History Channel HD and A&E HD exemplify the kind of high-quality programming that we’ll offer DirecTV customers as we begin a significant expansion of HD channels this fall.”

For its part, Starz Entertainment subscribers will soon get more chances to see Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in HD. Starz Entertainment this summer will present such theatricals as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Cars and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in the enhanced format with the debut of three new Starz-owned HD premium services.

Complementing its extant Starz HD channel, as well as its Starz and Encore HD On Demand services, the company will offer HD mirror channels of the East Coast feeds of its Starz Comedy, Starz Edge and Starz Kids and Family services.

“Starz has always been a leader in terms of offering our customers more ways to enjoy our great movies,” president and chief operating officer Bill Myers said in a prepared statement. “We pioneered in digital transmission, multiplex, on-demand and online. We will now be able to offer the largest package of HD movie channels of any widely distributed programming service and the only one featuring first-run hit movies.”

Myers hopes the additional Starz feeds will convince more subscribers to watch HD content from cable: He said that while the number of HDTV sets sold every year has been growing, only one-half of HDTV owners use their sets to watch cable and satellite programming

“Working with our affiliates, we will make a major effort to convince HD-set owners that their televisions are good for more than just watching DVDs,” Myers said. “With our great lineup of HD movies, on-demand HD services and now with four HD channels, Starz is well-positioned to spearhead those efforts.”

Speaking of Starz HD, the service is one of five enhanced networks that Comcast Media Center will launch on its HITS Quantum all-digital channel lineup. CMC said A&E HD, Home & Garden Television HD, Food Network HD and Universal HD will also be available on HITS Quantum

Denver-based CMC also announced that it secured transport agreements for offering standard-definition feeds of Rainbow Media Holdings' AMC cable network and News Corp.'s Fox News Channel.

“HD service from HITS Quantum is designed to meet the needs of cable operators requiring a cost-effective alternative to headend-based content management, especially systems serving rural markets," CMC COO Gary Traver said in a prepared statement.

All told, HITS Quantum offers more than 200 digital video and audio services in order to support cable-system operators' migration to an all-digital service. The HITS Quantum all-digital platform features secured authorization, optimized digital-program-insertion triggers and high-quality video and audio.

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