Starz In Market For HD Deal Encores


Encore HD is looking for some encores.

The enhanced simulcast version of the channel had its first launch on Dish Network on Aug. 1. Encore HD, which became available July 15, has also been rolled out on Insight Communications systems serving the Bowling Green, Ky., market.

Starz Entertainment executive vice president of sales and marketing Ed Huguez said Comcast has made a commitment to launch Encore HD, “hopefully by year-end.”

Comcast didn’t return calls by press time.

Moreover, Huguez said negotiations continue with Verizon FiOS to carry the service, a point confirmed by a spokeswoman at the telco.

An Insight spokeswoman, citing policy, said the operator wouldn’t say whether or when it was considering launching Encore HD in additional markets.

Huguez said the programmer is pleased with the early receptivity to Encore HD, demand for which emanated from the launch of sister services on the Starz side.

“As we rolled out Starz HD, affiliates began asking about an HD version of Encore,” he said, adding that the company’s strategy initially centered on boosting Starz distribution, in large part owing to its investments in original fare, including the upcoming drama series Crash.

Starz HD (East and West Coast feeds), Starz Comedy HD, Starz Kids & Family HD and Starz Edge HD became available in March and have gained footing with DirecTV, Dish Network and Verizon Communications. Time Warner Cable has launched the Starz HD services in New York and San Antonio, while AT&T’s U-Verse has rolled out the East and West coast feeds of the flagship Starz HD channel, as well as Starz Kids & Family HD.

Comcast, the nation’s largest operator, offers both feeds of Starz HD, as well as an array of the programmer’s movie fare via its on-demand service, part of its 'Project Infinity” initiative to proffer 1,000 HD choices monthly.

Starz HD On Demand and Encore HD On Demand, which both bowed on Sept. 15, 2006, collectively make between 65 and 70 theatricals available in HD per month.

Looking ahead, Huguez expects HD demand to continue unabated.

“At some point, all linear channels will be available in HD,” he said, noting that all of the programmer’s distributors have indicated their “willingness to launch all of our Starz HD and more Encore services. It’s only questions of bandwidth and when.”

To that end, Huguez said over time all Starz multiplex services (Starz in Black, Starz Cinema are the other two) and the six Encore themed channels also will be converted into HD channels.