Starz Pulls Plug on Sharper Movies HD

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Starz Encore Group LLC has scrapped plans to launch the Sharper Movies HD channel in December, seeing a lack of interest from operators to charge a premium fee for the network.

At the National Show in June, the programmer unveiled Sharper Movies HD, a new high-definition movie channel with titles culled from various Starz Encore multiplex channels. It also planned to launch East and West Coast feeds of a high-definition Starz! premium channel, Starz On Demand HD and East and West Coast feeds of Starz Hi Res in a 480i (interlaced) 16x9 format using less bandwidth than HDTV.

Starz Encore president of sales and marketing Bob Clasen said last week that Starz HD, Starz on Demand HD and Starz Hi Res will launch in December, but Sharper Movies HD won’t.

With most MSOs now focused on bundling new services such as subscription video-on-demand and HDTV content in existing digital packages, Sharper Movies HD -- which Starz Encore hoped would find a home in cable HDTV tiers -- no longer has a niche.

In certain markets, operators such as Cox Communications Inc. and Insight Communications Co. Inc. are charging extra fees for Discovery HD Theater and ESPN HD. But no MSOs are charging extra for HD versions of Starz rivals Home Box Office and Showtime to subscribers who already buy the standard-definition versions.

Starz Encore won’t charge a premium fee for Starz HD and Starz Hi Res to existing Starz customers, Clasen said.

He added that Starz Encore hasn’t yet reached any deals with cable operators for Starz Hi Res, but he expects small cable operators that haven’t upgraded systems with HDTV bandwidth to have some interest.

For more, please see Steve Donohue’s story on page 10 of Monday’s Multichannel News
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