Starz Looking to HD VOD (1 Viewer)

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FCom911

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May 25, 2008
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Starz Looking to HD VOD


(The Bridge) Although the HD move at Starz is somewhat more modest than HBO’s 26-feed onslaught – the premium net currently offers five of its six linear channels in HD including Starz East, Starz West, Starz Kids & Family, Starz Edge and Starz Comedy – it’s just as committed to high-definition content. What’s more, the network plans to add an HD version of its Encore movie channel in early August.

And, as at HBO, the move at Starz is being driven by subscriber demand.

“It’s clear that if you’re a premium subscriber you’re a real big fan of movies and a real big fan of television,” says Ed Huguez, Starz’ executive vice president of sales. “You expect things you don’t get from other services, and HD is part of that experience that’s expected.”

After all, he says, Starz is primarily a movie service. And since HD has such an impact on the movie viewing experience it’s only natural that the premium network would want to offer it as much as possible.

With this goal in mind, Starz has focused many of its HD resources on high-def VOD offerings rather than linear channels. At present, Starz offers as many as 70 pieces of HD content (including movies, TV shows and shorts) via its on demand service, compared to a handful of offerings from the other premiums.

The network’s close association with Comcast has been an asset in this effort.

“On the server side there’s no doubt that Comcast is the leader in HD on demand,” Huguez says, mentioning the cable provider’s promise to offer 1,000 HD VOD choices by the end of the year as proof of its HD strategy.

But, he cautions, HD VOD is still a developing segment.

“We want to be ahead of the market as we are now, but at the same time we need to balance and not get too far ahead of the market.

“DIRECTV was a key factor in stimulating the HD market, and DISH Network announced that by the end of the year they’ll (offer more HD capacity) too,” Huguez says. “That definitely changes consumer expectations, so we’ll continue to expand our offerings. To do that today quite frankly the distributors would not be able to transmit it.”

Starz HD is currently streamed in MPEG2 but, like HBO, the network plans to begin converting everything to MPEG4 later this month.
 

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