Foxtel jumping into Oz's HD pond

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SYDNEY -- A BBC-owned and branded high-definition channel to be produced in Australia will be one of four new channels that will form pay network Foxtel's new HD service, to be launched mid-year, Foxtel CEO Kim Williams said Wednesday.

The service, named Foxtel HD+, also will include ESPN HD, an HD channel from local sports provider Fox Sports and a documentary channel that will have programming blocks from Discovery Channel HD and National Geographic HD. High-definition on-demand movies also will become available as part of the Foxtel Box Office movie service.

The new channels will enable subscribers to get full benefit from HD-capable plasma and LCD televisions, said Foxtel's executive director of content, product development and delivery Patrick Delany.

"Foxtel is not just dipping its toe in the HD pond. We are immersing ourselves by delivering Australian viewers four, 24/7 HD channels of some of the greatest television brand names who are the leaders in HD content and delivery," he said.

Foxtel also said it will broadcast the Vancouver Winter Olympics and the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the 2012 London Summer Olympics in HD on multiple channels.

The HD service will be further ramped up with additional high-definition channels in May 2009 when extra cable and satellite capacity becomes available to Foxtel.

The Foxtel HD+ launch will include an upgrade of Foxtel's existing iQ personal video recorder, enabling subscribers to receive up to 10 HD movies on demand, provide a 320GB recordable hard drive and provide broadband connectivity.

Williams also announced that Foxtel now has about 1.5 million subscribers, with approximately 20% of its subscriber base using the Foxtel iQ personal video recorder. He added that Foxtel aims to have an iQ box in every Foxtel home.

The Foxtel service will join HD channels launched by commercial TV networks Seven and Ten here in December. Those channels carry 50 hours each of unique HD programming each week. The Nine network, meanwhile, is planning to launch its new HD channel in March.

Foxtel has not yet announced a launch date or packaging and pricing information for the new service.
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