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DirecTV Reveals New HD Channel Plans

El Segundo, Calif. – DirecTV Wednesday formally released the names of additional programming partners that are onboard to provide expanded high-definition channels this summer and fall.

DirecTV said it has agreements to add four Discovery HD channels, five HD channels from Starz, and HD channels from CNBC and Chiller. In addition, the satellite company said it has recently completed deals with The History Channel and A&E for HD services.

Under the agreement with Discovery Communications, DirecTV will launch four simulcasts — Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and The Science Channel — and two other channels to be named and launched at a later date. DirecTV said the HD feeds of the four existing networks will launch in September.

Under the Starz agreement, DirecTV will launch three new HD movie channels including, Starz Edge, Starz Comedy and Starz Kids & Family, as well as Starz’s East and West coast HD feeds. The new Starz HD channels will launch in September.

The History Channel agreement will include the debut of The History Channel HD, a new 24-hour HD network, and A&E HD in September.

DirecTV said it is also planning to use its expanded platform to debut exclusive HD programming. Disney Channel will provide the exclusive rights to broadcast the premiere HD version of “High School Musical 2.” The HD version of the movie will air a few days after its standard-definition premiere on Disney Channel, DirecTV said.

The satellite provider said it is gearing up to answer the call of its growing HD subscriber base, which has doubled in the last year.

With the launch of DirecTV’s D10 satellite this summer, the satellite TV service provider will have enough capacity to add up to 100 national HD channels by year’s end, in addition to expanding its local HD channel coverage to 75 total markets. DirecTV said it expects to begin adding some of the new HD channels in the third quarter.

“Earlier this year we called 2007 the ‘Year of HD’ and we’re going to deliver on our commitment to offer more HD channels than any other multichannel provider,” stated Derek Chang, DirecTV strategy and development executive VP. “In addition to the networks we’ve signed to date, we will continue to add more HD programming to our launch list between now and year-end. Demand for HD continues to grow, and with the dramatic expansion of our capacity this summer and the nationwide reach of our service, we are uniquely positioned to lead the industry in the carriage and delivery of HD programming.”

To date, DirecTV has signed agreements or agreements in principle, to launch the following networks: A&E, National Geographic, Bravo, NFL Network, Cartoon Network, SciFi Channel, CNN, Speed, Food Network, TBS, Big Ten Network, The History Channel, HGTV, The Weather Channel, MTV, USA Network, Disney Channel, Versus HD, Toon Disney, TLC, ABC Family, Animal Planet, ESPNNEWS HD, The Science Channel, Starz E/W feeds, Discovery Channel, Starz Edge, The Tennis Channel, Starz Comedy, Showtime West, Starz Kids & Family, The Movie Channel, CNBC and Chiller.

In addition DirecTV also plans to offer the HD feeds of regional sports networks on a nationwide basis this fall, and has commitments from a number of other networks to launch their HD simulcasts. They will be added to the lineup for launch by year-end and will be announced at a later date.

HD networks currently offered by DirecTV include ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD, Discovery HD Theater, HDNet, HDNet Movies, TNT in HD, Universal HD, HBO HD, Showtime HD, an HD pay per view/special events channel and HD feeds from NY- and LA-based broadcast networks ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX (for eligible customers).

DirecTV also offers local HD broadcast channels in 60 cities, representing more than 70 percent of U.S. TV households.

DirecTV said its HD sports programming lineup includes up to 10 MLB games a week and DirecTV plans to offer all MLB games produced in HD beginning with the 2008 season.

DirecTV also offers NBA and NHL games in HD, and through its exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket Superfan subscription, DirecTV customers have access to more than 150 NFL games in HD.

In total DirecTV offered more than 200 HD games last season, which the satellite provider said was “nearly twice as many as cable.”

Early next year, DirecTV plans to launch its D11 satellite, which will support further HD expansion. With the two satellites, DirecTV is planning 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.