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Starz Unveils HD Services at NCTA

Chicago – Starz Encore Group CEO John J. Sie unveiled today at the NCTA show plans to launch a new, high definition premium movie channel and HD and Hi-Res versions of STARZ!

Each of the new STARZ! services will have two time zone feeds. Sie also announced that Starz On Demand, the company’s subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, will make select titles available in HD, the first time HD titles have been offered via SVOD.

The new Starz Encore services will launch by year-end. Initially, each of the HD services will include a selection of films available in 1080i format with other films up-converted to approximate the full HD experience.

The new services include Sharper Movies HD, which is designed to be part of the new tier of HDTV services many cable operators and DBS providers are planning to offer their customers. It will consist of commercial-free films from Starz Encore’s inventory of movie programming and will be transmitted in wide screen 16 by 9 in 1080i with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

Sharper Movies HD will be marketed to multichannel providers separate and distinct from other Starz Encore pay TV movie services. The HD tier, as currently formulated by several MSO’s and DBS operators, would be priced at about $10 and would also include HD versions of popular advertiser-supported channels.

Another offering is STARZ! HD east and west feeds. These two services will be transmitted in wide-screen 16 by 9 1080i and will feature Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and is the HD version of the flagship STARZ! Service.

STARZ! will also offer Hi-Res east and west feeds, which is a standard definition widescreen (480i) offering with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. This will allow cable and DBS operators to offer viewers a wide-screen, DVD-quality picture quality substantially superior to conventional digital video, but using only one third the digital bandwidth of HD STARZ!

Hi Res is specially designed for cable systems that have limited bandwidth or for operators who choose to conserve digital spectrum while satisfying their customers with HDTV sets.

‘Today’s announcement marks several historic firsts for the cable and satellite industry,’ Sie said. ‘For the first time, movies transmitted in Hi-Def will be available on demand at one monthly fee. Our Sharper Movies HD channel will be the cornerstone of a unique new tier of programming that will include a premium, commercial-free movie service alongside ad-supported networks.’