Europe's first HDTV service launches in Jan '03

PARIS: The trend towards high definition television (HDTV) is growing steadily. 

In the US, 2.5 million HD sets will be sold this year according to the American Consumer Electronics Association. Not one to be left behind, Europeans will also experience HDTV from next year.


Europe's first HDTV channel Euro1080 will commence broadcast from 1 January 2004. It will launch from SES-Astra's 19.2-degree East orbital position. The European dimension of the station will eliminate all language barriers, with a program consisting of sport, music, shows and cultural venues. Highlights will include the European and the World Soccer Championships, the Olympic Summer, Winter Games. The first programme on the anvil is the New Year's Concert from Vienna.

The two-channel service is operated by Belgian production company Alfacam. The Main Channel will offer four hours of programmes a day. This will be a mix of live and recorded stuff. It will go to European households and to small venues (sports bars, hotel chains, airports, etc). It will be free-to-air via satellite, with a footprint between Norway, Portugal and Greece, covering over 30 countries. 

The second Euro1080 channel, the Event Channel, will be distributed to theatres. Event programmes, either live or delayed live, are sent out to Event Cinemas. These are theatres equipped with electronic projection and 5.1 surround sound systems. The content will range from big events to specific regional programming.

As a result of this hardware, companies will feel the need to innovate and launch their products on the European market. Internationally, the impact of HDTV will also get heavier, since it will be present on all continents except Africa.

The European service will offer more lines, more pixels and more colours. The number 1080 refers to the number of lines on the screen. Standard Definition offers only 625 lines.

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