In Sydney today, Foxtel officially announced its new high definition service, to be called HD+, and named the four exclusive channels set to be available for its mid-year launch.
Foxtel HD+ sees the launch of the new iQ2 box -- the high definition successor to the original iQ -- which features a 320GB hard drive and broadband connectivity, and will be the only way customers can access the HD channels.
The service is due in mid-2008 and will feature four new channels: ESPN HD and Fox Sports HD, a new BBC HD channel, and a HD documentary channel consisting of both National Geographic and Discovery.
"We are more than confident that Foxtel HD+ will be an unbeatable product and finally will drive true consumer enthusiasm for high definition television in Australia", said Patrick Delany, Foxtel's executive director of content, product development and delivery.
Delany added that more channels will be offered with the launch of Optus' new D3 satellite in 2009, but is as yet unknown how many of the free-to-air channels -- if any -- will be made available in HD this year.
Foxtel representatives were unable to commit to which commercial channels would be available at launch, though Foxtel managing director Kim Williams said Foxtel would "retransmit any service with which we have a retransmission agreement." At the moment, Foxtel has agreements with SBS, ABC, Nine and Ten.
"We are in negotiations with Seven and we remain hopeful that a retransmission agreement will be completed with them", Williams said. "We harbour no ill will toward Seven, we just don't like being sued", he later joked.
Foxtel's iQ2 will launch in mid-2008.
Patrick Delany said that Australia's quick take-up of high definition television screens meant that now was ideal to enter the market: "In Australia -- especially during this Christmas period -- you can pick up a good panel TV for less than AU$2000 and all of the indications are that the prices are still coming down. So now is the perfect time to launch Australia's most comprehensive, high-def service", Delany said.
Pricing and an exact release date are still to be announced. However, a similar service in the UK -- Sky HD -- offers its set top box for between £199 (~AU$460) and £399 (~AU$922) depending on the subscription level.
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