Sky confirms HDTV launch in May

MUMBAI: Sky has confirmed that the first installations of BSkyB's new high-definition service, Sky HD, are scheduled to begin in May, in time for a raft of major sporting events. The announcement comes a day after the BBC confirmed it would start its HDTV trial in time for the World Cup.

Customers will have to acquire the Sky HD box for £299, with a monthly charge of £10 in addition to their Sky digital subscription, currently between £15 and £42.50 a month.

Sky's director of product strategy and management Brian Sullivan commented, "Sky is just weeks away from an exciting new era that will transform the television viewing experience. Sky HD customers will be able to enjoy stunning picture and sound quality from the widest range of HD channels in the UK and Ireland. We're delighted that the BBC has said that its HD coverage of the World Cup will be available to all customers with a Sky HD box as a non-subscription channel."

The initial Sky HD line-up will consist of seven channels, which includes Sky Sports HD with live Barclays Premiership football, Guinness Premiership Rugby coverage, Coca-Cola League, Carling Cup football matches and England's home tests and one day cricket internationals.

Sky Movies HD and Sky Box Office HD also includes movies like Kill Bill: Vol 1, Spider-Man 2 and Big Fish; Sky One, providing 24 and Rescue Me, among others, in HD.

The HD package will also have arts programming including remastered footage of Jimi Hendrix's performance at the Isle of Wight Festival, Sky One shows including 24, and Discovery and National Geographic programmes. Other BBC programmes to feature in its trial include natural history series Planet Earth and Galapagos, and forthcoming drama documentary Hannibal.

The date of transmission has not been announced. HDTV provides a sharper, clearer and more colourful image than standard TV. BBC will make its HD World Cup coverage available to all viewers with a Sky HD box on a non-subscription channel.

BBC announced this week that the coverage forms part of an HDTV trial and will be an extra stream alongside conventional analogue and digital broadcasts.

Cable company Telewest launched the UK's first high-definition television service earlier this month, though the service is currently limited to programmes made by BBC Worldwide. Sky estimates that 2.1 million HD TVs will have been sold in the UK by the end of the 2006, compared with 700,000 at the end of 2005

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