With the price of HDTV sets expected to plummet this year, cable operators are shoring up their hi-def content with two new services launching today. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks are on board for INHD and INHD2, In Demand’s 24/7 HDTV networks that start rolling out Sept. 15. Comcast plans a broad and aggressive launch, offering the networks as a value-added feature to digital customers at no additional monthly charge. “We are available as a digital basic channel in the Comcast world, so all you need if you’re a Comcast subscriber is an HD set and an HD set-top box,” says Sergei Kuharsky, SVP marketing for In Demand. Launch strategies for the networks’ other MSO partners were not available at press time. The networks are the first 24/7 services from In Demand, which is owned by Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable and to date has offered programming on a pay-perview, video-on-demand and near-VOD basis. On Sept. 1 the company also flipped its two highest-penetrated PPV channels, In Demand 1 and 2, to 24/7 event-only services. The INHD lineup features a diverse hi-def programming library, including sports coverage from Major League Baseball, CSTV: College Sports Television, the Tennis Channel and classic NBA games. On the entertainment side, viewers can enjoy documentaries and general interest programming (such as science and nature shows) in hi-def, along with features from Hallmark Entertainment and box office hits from its studio partners such as Paramount Pictures. The Anime Network is also providing content. The two networks will be offered sequentially on channel lineups, with INHD2 enabled to be preempted by local cable operators who wish to showcase local pro sporting events. With its owners on board, In Demand is now hoping to ink deals with other operators. “What we’re trying to do is help the cable operators transition to HD,” says In Demand COO Rob Jacobson. “What we’ve endeavored to do — in a manner that provided bandwidth efficiency, as well as a cost-effective solution — was to go out and assist in that.” The channels, which In Demand is marketing as an HBO-like “It’s not high-tech, it’s high-def” service, are designed to sate customers’ hunger for more unique-to-HD content. “If you look at what other networks are doing, be it Bravo, ESPN or the broadcast networks, all those have a very small percentage of HD programming,” Jacobson says. “Ours, on the other hand, is all HD.” “Hi-def is an opportunity for [our owners] to differentiate themselves from…DBS,” says Kuharsky. “If you look at the landscape it is quickly becoming flooded with really known brands. Essentially, they look and sound like what they are, they’re just broadcasting in hi-def. So we feel there’s a tremendous opportunity for a fresh new voice.”

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