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DISH Network Raises HD Stakes

Englewood, Colo. — Following DirecTV’s statement Monday that it plans to add 30 more HD channels in two weeks and will offer 1080p movies later in the year, satellite TV provider Dish Network raised the stakes Tuesday, saying it too is adding a 1080p on-demand movie service and increasing its HD channel lineup to over 150 by year’s end.

The expanded capability includes the company’s new TurboHD all-HD program package structure.

To start, Dish Network said it will launch 17 more national HD channels Thursday, boosting its HD offering to more than 100 national channels, five months ahead of schedule. The satellite provider said it plans to nearly double its national HD channel count in less than a year and offer up to 150 national HD channels by the end of 2008.
“Over the years, DISH Network has maintained a very competitive high definition offering in the marketplace, providing customers with a premium HD product including the best technology, signal and experience – at the best value – that no other pay-TV provider can come close to matching. Our latest system upgrade coupled with the introduction of TurboHD further strengthens our position as the leader in digital television and high definition television,” said Charlie Ergen, Chairman, CEO and President of DISH Network. “We know that once consumers start watching their favorite TV shows in high definition, their viewing habits change and their preference switches to all-HD programming. Only DISH Network gives them that option, all for an industry-low price of $24.99 per month.”

The additional channels were made possible by the recently launched Echo XI satellite, and what Dish called “turbo charged system upgrade” using the MPEG-4 compression standard. Starting August 1, an MPEG-4 HD upgrade is being rolled out to all MPEG-4-enabed HD and HD DVR receivers, Dish said.

According to a company statement, the upgrade “activates a feature of the set-top boxes, improving the current standard of HD delivery” including the ability to output 1080p programming. By early August, all Dish Network customers with MPEG-4 HD and HD DVR receivers will have equipment needed to display 1080p content for display on 1080p capable HDTV sets. The boxes will also output signals to other HD and SD formats required by various sets.

To make use of the capability, Dish said it will offer subscribers in August the recent Will Smith theatrical blockbuster “I Am Legend” in 1080p HD format through its video on demand service, Dish On Demand at a special $2.99 rate, reduced from the $6.99 video-on-demand HD rate. Subscribers may order the movie on Dish Network Channel 501.

Meanwhile, Dish said it is offering new three-tiered TurboHD programming packages starting at $24.99/month.

Current Dish Network customers with MPEG-4 HD and HD DVR receivers are being automatically upgraded and will have their systems “turbo-charged” by early August. Dish Network customers will be able to add a “turbo-charged” HD package starting at $10 more per month, the network said.

New national HD channels planned to be added are: ActionMax HD (DISH Network Ch. 313), CBS College Sports HD (Ch. 152), Lifetime HD (Ch. 108), Lifetime Movie Network HD (Ch. 109), Planet Green HD (Ch. 194), Encore HD (Ch. 340), HBO 2 HD (Ch. 301), HBO Comedy HD (Ch. 307), HBO Family HD (Ch. 305), HBO Latino HD (Ch. 309), HBO Signature HD (Ch. 302), HBO West HD (Ch. 303), HBO Zone HD (Ch. 308), Starz Comedy HD (Ch. 354), Starz Edge HD (Ch. 352), Starz Kids & Family HD (Ch. 356), Starz West HD (Ch. 351).