74 high-def networks have launched since ’03, according to SNL Kagan. One of the first was ESPN HD, which celebrated its 5th anniversary Mar 30.
The number of sports events offered on the channel has grown from 87 in ’03 to more than 1K in ’08. ESPN’s Bristol, CT, home base didn’t even have the capability to record HD content when the channel tipped off, said vp, strategic planning and business development Bryan Burns. But that leap of faith has paid handsome dividends. “Where other organizations are just getting in, [HD is] already part of our culture,” said Burns. “Our technology effort is now a key business driver, and HD is great currency in our [carriage] negotiations.”
Also adding value as of Mar 30 is ESPNews HD, a simulcast service that’s slated to offer more information than the net’s standard-def version, both family firsts. Additional negotiation power came that same day from the launches of Disney HD, ABC Family HD and Toon Disney HD. ESPNU HD kicks off Aug 1.