BSkyB has released more details of its eagerly anticipated launch of high definition television (HDTV) in the UK and Ireland early next year. Sky said the HD line-up would include a Sky Sports channel, Sky One, Artsworld, a Sky Box Office channel and two Sky Movies screens, "allowing viewers to enjoy a wide variety of programming with the intensity and rich detail of HD pictures".
Sky said it was in advanced discussions with a number of other channels interested in offering an HD service on digital satellite. One of those channels is expected to be National Geographic's UK channel.
Consumers will be able to pre-register for Sky HD in retail stores from this Friday.
Sky said the Sky Sports channel would offer live and exclusive coverage of the Barclays Premiership in HD with the added benefit of Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Also available in HD will be live rugby from the Guinness Premiership, with other HD sports to be confirmed later.
From Sky Movies there will be two HD screens dedicated to films in HD, with titles available at launch including Spider Man 2, The Day After Tomorrow and House of Flying Daggers. In addition, movie fans will able to choose from up to ten movies in HD each week on Sky Box Office.
A simulcast version of the existing Sky One channel will deliver high-quality entertainment programming with a range of Sky One shows and cutting edge series in HD.
Sky HD's simulcast version of the existing Artsworld channel will offer a selection of arts programming including opera, dance, and classical music. Sky said HD broadcasts would "transform the viewing experience offering stunning picture and sound quality, bringing alive performances of a wide range of artistic genres on the UK's only dedicated arts and culture channel".
Brian Sullivan, Sky's director of customer products and services, said: "The launch of high definition will be the start of an exciting new era in broadcasting and Sky HD will offer stunning picture and sound quality for a broad selection of programmes. When this choice of viewing is combined with the Sky+ functionality of the Sky HD box, consumers who upgrade to HD Ready television sets can look forward to a viewing experience that will be truly transformed."
Sky HD will support both 720p/50 and 1080i/25 picture formats. Sky will use the advanced compression coding system MPEG-4 for its HD broadcasts.
Earlier this month BSkyB CEO James Murdoch confirmed the launch was on track for early 2006. "The quality is amazing, it just looks fantastic," he said.