Cable giants aim to rule HD
Companies increase their offerings in high definition as customers upgrade their TVs
Frank Norton, Staff Writer. The News & Observer
Time Warner Cable and its rivals are in the early stages of a torrid campaign to win the latest battle for America's dens: high-definition programming.
With thousands of new sets installed in the past year, satellite and cable service providers are touting plans to multiply the number of HD channels they offer. Until recently, Time Warner had the edge in the Triangle. Now, armed with new satellites, DirecTV can claim the most high-definition programming.
But Time Warner, the nation's second- largest cable company, is spending $50 million in North Carolina and South Carolina to allow what it says will be an unlimited number of HD channels by the middle of this year. The company does have some ground to make up: Its offering of 26 channels trails DirecTV's lineup of 85.
For its part, DirecTV promises dozens of new HD channels this year. Even AT&T, the phone company, is planning to elbow its way into the fight by spending $350 million in North Carolina to introduce high-definition TV programming.
For consumers, the programming blitz is a win, at least in the short term.
"I don't expect to see much change in monthly fees, but I do expect to see more channels added to the plans," said Alfred Poor, a founder of HDTVProfessor.com.
Time Warner declined to predict how many HD channels it will offer after its new "switched digital" technology is completed. The system will free capacity in Time Warner's network by limiting the broadcast signal to the channel being viewed. The current technology sends all signals for all channels simultaneously, whether they are being viewed or not.
With the upgrade, Time Warner will be able to broadcast as many HD channels as it has agreements to distribute, said Brad Phillips, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable in North Carolina. The company will automatically upgrade all customers by mid-2008 without any change in prices, he said.
"Customers want more HD, and we're doing all we can to provide it," Phillips said.