Outdoor Channel Adding Splash of HD

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The Outdoor Channel is joining the growing flock of programmers who are launching standalone HDTV networks.

The independent programmer is set to debut Outdoor Channel 2 HD in July next year, according to company officials. The new HDTV network won’t be a simulcast of the original channel, but rather a distinct network.

While it will share some programming with the core channel, it will also have unique content.

“Our programming is a perfect match for this new technology,” Outdoor Channel CEO Andy Dale said in a prepared statement. “When that bass is pulled from the water, viewers will feel as if they’re wet from the splash; and this is exactly what we want for our growing audience of outdoor enthusiasts.”

The Outdoor Channel, now in 25.7 million homes, began doing production in HDTV in early 2003, and is continuing to expand its HDTV library.

In part, The Outdoor Channel plans to use its new HDTV service as a bargaining chip to gain more carriage for the original network. Outdoor Channel 2 HD’s license fee will be pricier if an operator just carries it alone. There will be a discount if that operator carries both the HDTV service and The Outdoor Channel.

“We think it will help our distribution of the mother ship channel,” Dale said in an interview.

In addition to its HDTV service, The Outdoor Channel is also mulling launching a domestic Spanish-language network.

The Outdoor Channel has already secured a slot for its new HDTV service on satellite Galaxy 10, next to ESPN HD’s transponder.