Channel 4 will become the first terrestrial broadcaster to offer a high definition simulcast of its main channel. The channel will launch in December trumping rival ITV, which aims to offer HD content from next spring.
Channel 4 HD will launch on the Sky platform, allowing Sky HD customers to watch high definition versions of some of the broadcaster’s shows.
Last week, ITV unveiled its plans to launch a HD version of its flagship ITV1 programme, as revealed on marketingweek.co.uk. The broadcaster will launch the service at the same time as its Freesat digital satellite joint venture with the BBC in the spring. The service will feature sport and drama programmes and grow from an initial two-hour to a three-hour peak service.
HD TV sets are forecast to reach 30 million by 2012 and ITV says audiences and advertisers will expect the broadcaster to be available in HD.
Meanwhile, the BBC’s plans for a permanent HD service took a step forward this week, with media regulator Ofcom giving it the green light. Ofcom has passed a report to BBC governing body, BBC Trust, which has the final say. MTV is also will be the first channel to launch a pan-European service.
Sky HD launched in May last year and has 292,000 customers. It offers subscribers 5,000 hours of HD content each month across 12 channels including Sky Sports, High Movies, Sky One and National Geographic. Channel 4 HD will be available without subscription to viewers with a Sky HD box and viewing card.
High definition is also available on cable and TV executives are lobbying for spectrum to be set aside to allow Freeview services from 2012 following the switchover from analogue to digital.