DirecTV puts another 24 US cities on HD map

DirecTV has named the next 24 cities in the roll-out of its high-definition (HD) television service and provided more details on its planned broadband-based video-on-demand (VOD) offering. The largest US satellite TV operator, controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, said the roll-out of local HD programming in the next 24 markets from April would bring the total to 36, representing more than 58% of US television homes.

In each area DirecTV subscribers will be able to receive HD programming from the four primary US networks: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. DirecTV said customers with the appropriate HD receiving equipment subscribing to programming packages including local channels would receive both the standard and HD signals at no extra monthly charge.

The 24 cities to receive local HD programming include: Baltimore, Minneapolis, Birmingham, Nashville, Orlando, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Kansas City, Seattle, Miami, and Milwaukee.

"The expansion of local HD programming is one of the cornerstones of our brand strategy to provide the best entertainment experience for DirecTV's customers and sets us apart from our competition," said executive VP Dan Fawcett.

DirecTV currently offers standard-definition local channels in 141 markets, covering nearly 94% of television households in the US, as well as 12 HD local channel markets, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa and Washington, DC.

With the launch of two new satellites in 2007, DirecTV will have the ability to deliver more than 1,500 local HD and digital channels and 150 national HD channels, in addition to new advanced programming services for customers. All DirecTV local HD programming is being transmitted via MPEG-4 AVC, the new standard in digital video compression.

Meanwhile, DirecTV said its broadband-based VOD, to be called DirecTV Broadband Video, would launch in the fourth quarter offering around 2,000 movies for on-demand download.

Earlier this month Rupert Murdoch outlined plans by DirecTV to offer access to programming via a high-speed wireless network, possibly in conjunction with rival satellite TV provider EchoStar.

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