Jericho, N.Y. – Cablevision’s Rainbow DBS satellite service division will launch its new HDTV-intensive satellite television service — which it is calling VOOM — on Oct. 15.
As reported last month, the new satellite service plans to offer “a base” of 39 HD channels, including 21 exclusive HD channels from Rainbow Media.
The company is banking on its extensive package of HDTV channels as the key difference maker over rival direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services DirecTV and EchoStar.
To date those services have offered “no more than seven HDTV channels” each, Rainbow DBS said.
Along with HDTV programming, the service will carry 88 of “the most popular” cable channels in standard definition.
The VOOM receivers also will be equipped with ATSC and NTSC terrestrial tuners to receive over-the-air digital and analog TV channels.
VOOM will initially broadcast in MPEG-2, with an upgrade to MPEG-4 currently expected for the third quarter of 2004, the company said.
Using MPEG-4, Rainbow DBS will be able to broadcast more than 200 channels, including at least 39 HDTV services.
Hardware for the VOOM service will include a satellite dish, set-top receiver and a digital antenna for local broadcast signals.
In markets with local HDTV programming, local channels will be integrated into the same user interface with the VOOM offerings, the company said.
Rainbow DBS said its receiver is the only one on the market designed to be easily upgraded to MPEG-4, “so that customers will not have to replace their receivers to enjoy the additional programming choices.”
Rainbow DBS has arranged to sell its receiver systems, which are manufactured by Motorola, through Sears locations.
The company said it would formally unveil further details on the VOOM service on the October 15th launch date, but invited early birds who want to subscribe to the service to submit their names on the company’s Web site (www.voom.com).
Meanwhile, the company said it has named Mickey Alpert, formerly of Alpert & Associates and one-time senior officer of Comsat, as senior executive VP of Rainbow DBS and chief operating officer, reporting to Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan.
Rainbow DBS also named Bill Casamo, one-time sales and marketing executive VP for DirecTV and before that sales and marketing VP for Thomson Consumer Electronics, as Rainbow DBS sales and marketing executive VP.
Jay Aldrich, formerly Alpert & Associates senior VP and one time senior executive with PrimeTime 24, was named Rainbow DBS executive vice president of finance.
Alpert said the VOOM package of 21 exclusive HD channels will be built around the interests of high-end consumers. It will also include existing HDTV programming “with a complement of cable favorites, premium packages and local digital over-the-air programming.
Moreover, VOOM will act as a stimulus to those who are interested in buying HDTV sets, but are waiting for the content,' he added.
In explaining its decision to launch, Rainbow DBS cited a Forrester Research study that showed a doubling in the number of HDTV households this year to 6 million, and a doubling of the market again in 12 million by the end of 2005.
It also offered findings from a recent Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) study showing:
Consumers are overwhelmingly unaware of existing HDTV content -- 71 percent of those surveyed said they were not very familiar or not at all familiar with HDTV programming.
Among potential HDTV purchasers, almost 30 percent of those surveyed cited lack of HDTV content as an inhibitor to purchasing an HDTV set.
An even larger percentage of consumers surveyed lack basic information about how to receive the full benefits of HD programming:
74 percent of consumers were unaware that they need a set-top box to view HD programming; and
54 percent weren't aware that owning HDTV hardware would enable them to view programs in HD only if the programs are broadcast in HD.