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DirecTV Launches Hi-Def HDNet Channel

DirecTV announced it has added HDNet, a new high-definition TV network featuring broadcasts of live sporting events from Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) and other entertainment programs.

The new HD sports channel was to replace the direct broadcast satellite TV providers’ HDTV demo channel (199) with the airing of the Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers baseball game on Sept. 6. The channel has arranged to televise 15 MLB games in high definition throughout the month.

HDNet was founded by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Philip Garvin, who plan to ramp up the HD programming service from limited initial airings to a 16-hour-per day, seven-day-per week schedule starting in October.

The programmers said they have agreements with MLB, the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the National Lacrosse League (NLL) to offer sports programming in high definition. In addition to live game broadcasts, HDNet said it will feature a variety of live and taped special events, concerts, documentaries, music videos and movies.

“The rapidly growing base of current HDTV users is demanding more high-definition programming, and we are committed to providing them the compelling content they seek,” said Cuban, HDNet chairman. “Furthermore, for new TV buyers, we want to make their choice of upgrading to high-definition television and high-definition capable DirecTV equipment an easy decision.”

HDNet’s focus at launch will be primarily on sports broadcasts, events that have proven to be the ideal showcase for the superior viewing experience of HDTV, HDNet said.

In addition to the 15 MLB games in September, HDNet said it plans “a full schedule of games throughout the 2002 season.” NHL broadcasts begin in October and will include at least 65 games during the 2001-2002 season. HDNet will produce its MLB and NHL game broadcasts in conjunction with certain Fox Sports Net regional outlets, sharing audio and graphics with FSN’s standard definition production units.

The network also plans to work with the USOC to produce and broadcast events held by the 39 National Governing Bodies for Olympic sport.

Also slated are NLL games during the 2001-2002 NLL season, as well as select Dallas Mavericks games, which have been available only in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on the digital channels of UPN21 and CBS11.

HDNet programming will be offered to DirecTV subscribers at no additional monthly programming cost. Subscribers will have to purchase an HDTV set with a built-in DirecTV system receiver or a DirecTV HD set-top receiver to receive the station. Also, DirecTV recommends new subscribers add a new “triple-LNB 18-inch x 24-inch multi-satellite dish antenna” that can receive broadcasts from a new satellite orbital position, where DirecTV may eventually send additional broadcasts.

“I believe the market for HDTV-enabled TVs and tuners is set to explode over the next five years,” said Cuban. “The current state of the HDTV industry is very similar to the early days of the personal computer and the Internet, when the industry debated about technology and standards and growth was confined to the early adopters. With each of these industries, new marketing and sales-driven businesses were key to driving the growth of the markets to the next level.”

Cuban said HDNet will be working closely with DirecTV, television manufacturers, retailers and resellers to market and promote HD televisions “as opposed to HD-ready sets, thus making the buying decision an easy one for consumers.”