Starz Expands HD Offering

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Starz Entertainment has expanded its high-definition VOD and is preparing to launch Encore HD in July. The launch of Encore HD will bring the total number of Starz simulcast feeds in high definition to six, according to William Myers, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

The late May expansion of Starz’s on demand offering boosted its overall amount of high-def content from 42 hours to 136 hours on Comcast systems. As part of that increase, the Starz HD On Demand offering quadrupled from 20 to 80 hours, Encore HD On Demand doubled from 16 to 32 hours and MoviePlex HD on Demand tripled from 8 to 24 hours.

Ray Milius, senior vice president of programming operations at Starz noted Starz moved DVB-S2 satellite modulation and to MPEG-4 compression to free up the capacity needed to launch the additional HD content.

“DVB-S2 allowed us to go from a transponder that was at 47Mbps to one that is 77,” Milius said. “So we came close to doubling our capacity.”

Because Starz was one of the first programmers to adopt the relatively new DVB-S2 standard, Milius said that it was “not an easy transition. We spent a lot of time with Motorola [which is providing a transcoding system for the move to MPEG-4 compression] and Intelsat [which provides their satellite capacity.] They were a great help. DVB-S2 has a lot of promise and I expect that you will see a lot of programmers moving in that direction as a way to capitalize on their satellite bandwidth.”

Starz will be using MPEG-4 compression for the launch of Encore HD and is moving four of its existing HD services to MPEG-4 compression.

Myers said, however, that Starz has no plans to launch additional services at the moment.

When the transition is completed in July, Starz will offer Encore HD, Starz HD (East), Starz Comedy HD, Starz Edge HD and Starz Kids & Family HD from transponder 15 on Galaxy 13 in MPEG-4 compression.

It continues to offer Starz HD (East) and Starz HD (West) in MPEG-2 on transponder 9 on the same satellite, Milius said.

Over time, as more systems upgrade their systems to deal with MPEG-4 compression, Milius said “we will move them to the MPEG-4 transponder,” creating space on transponder 9 for additional services.

Starz is using Motorola’s DSR 4410MD and Motorola DSR-6050 receivers for the transition to MPEG-4.

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