Starz Encore Group LLC will announce plans Monday to launch separate HDTV and
high-resolution TV feeds of Starz! and provide operators a separate best-of
Starz Super Pak HDTV movie channel for packaging in the $9.95 basic HDTV tiers
operators are contemplating launching.
The moves mean Starz will join Home Box Office and Showtime, its premium
brethren, in the 1080i (interlaced) HDTV space, but the company will also offer
operators a bandwidth-saving high-resolution feed of Starz that will use 5.6
megabits per channel versus HDTV's 17.6 MB.
The dual strategy follows Starz chairman John Sie's long-held believe that
most consumers cannot readily discern the difference between a high-resolution
TV image and an HDTV feed.
The best-of Starz Super Pak channel, dubbed Sharper Movies HD, is designed to
join ESPN, Discovery, Bravo and HDNet in the basic HDTV tier many operators plan
Sie sees movies and sports as key drivers for HD adoption, and he's making it
clear that Starz will be in that space. "We're very excited about what we've
come up with," he said.
Sie plans to provide the East and West Coast feeds of Starz in HDTV by year's
end. Operators will also be offered a high-resolution version, which will use
one-third the bandwidth, of those same East and West Coast feeds. All four
channels will be available at no additional charge to consumers, he said.
The Sharper Movies HD channel, transmitted in 1080i format, will take the
best movies from the 12 Starz Super Pak channels.
The company said a sizable portion of its program lineup will be in HDTV at
Starz is going through its contracts and film libraries now to determine what
the final lineup will look like when it launches later this year. Some movies
will have originated in HDTV, Sie said, while others will be