New York - Rainbow DBS, the satellite TV arm of major cable TV MSO Cablevision Systems, formally launched its national HDTV-centric satellite service called Voom.
At launch, the service will include 21 1080i HDTV channels, produced by Cablevision subsidiary Rainbow Media exclusively for the new system, along with 21 popular cable channels in standard definition. Voom also just added Showtime, Starz! and six MTV channels for its lineup.
Beginning in January various pay-per-view HD programs, including exclusive HD content from Playboy, will be available.
After an initial preview period through January for 'charter members,' customers will pay a monthly subscription fee of $39.90 for 21 HD exclusive channels, one HD PlusPack, more than 40 standard definition cable channels and 18 digital music channels.
The service will ramp up to 39 HDTV channels and 88 standard definition cable channels by February 2004. During the ramp up period Voom will add the NFL Network and DiscoveryHD Theater, the company said.
Cablevision is placing heavy emphasis on exclusive HD content as its distinction over its satellite and cable TV rivals, said Mickey Alpert, Rainbow DBS chief operating officer.
'We believe we are coming into a new market. We are not the third entrant into the DBS market,' Alpert said. 'We are differentiating ourselves [from cable systems, DirecTV and EchoStar] by becoming HDTV-centric, offering 21 exclusive HDTV channels supplemented with other HD channels, complimented with various standard definition services.'
Even among common HDTV channels, Voom will offer a difference, Alpert said. 'Where, for example, DirecTV and EchoStar offer an HBO HD feed, we will offer two HBO HD feeds. We will try to distinguish ourselves in every way.'
The system is now being sold both direct to consumers through the www.voom.com Web site, through 851 Sears full-line stores and through 772 Sears dealer stores across the nation. Sears will have a retail distribution exclusive on the service through the balance of the year, and possibly through the end of January, pending negotiations, according to a Sears representative.
Rainbow DBS will sell an equipment package, including a professional installation, for $749.99.
Hardware for the system is being manufactured by Motorola and will include a set-top decoder box that is capable of decoding both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 signals, an 18-inch satellite dish and a ChannelMaster external antenna, which will connect to an internal ATSC tuner in the decoder box to receive local digital TV signals over the air.
The set-top box will include HD component video outputs and a DVI-HDCP connector for connection to HDTV-ready sets and a USB-2 jack for possible home networking applications. Composite and S-video jacks are available for standard definition TVs. Plans are to add 1394 digital interfaces to 'the second run' of boxes, although initial shipments will omit that capability, said Wilt Hildenbrand, Cablevision Systems engineering and technology executive VP.
The 21 exclusive HD channels will include the following:
HD Cinema 10 – Ten channels of different major feature films.
Monster HD – A 24/7 channels of classic monster movies.
Epics – A 'cinematic celebration of the silver screen with stories and music.
World Sport – Sporting events from around the globe.
Rush HD – A channel dedicated to extreme sporting events.
Rave HD – All-music video channel.
Ultra HD – A channel dedicated to the fashion and food capitals of the world.
Treasure HD – A channel dedicated to the world of collectibles and collectors.
Gallery HD – A channel dedicated to the greatest art museums, galleries and architecture of the world.
Animania – Long and short-for animation from award-winning festivals to cartoon classics.
News Bytes HD – Current news headlines, weather and sports.
MOOV – Motion video with a continuous flow of unusual images set to music.