Astro launches HD programming 12-Dec-2009 07:03:41
KUALA LUMPUR: Astro has launched its new HD programming, called Astro B.yond, which will go live on Dec 18.
The new high-definition broadcast will initially start with four channels, namely Astro Supersport HD, HBO HD, National Geographic Channel HD and History HD which will be available at launch date, while ESPN HD will start in January, said Astro chief operating officer of Strategy, Content & Marketing for Astro Henry Tan at the launch here yesterday.
Much like the switch from black-and-white television broadcasts to colour, high-definition (HD) television broadcasting is said to be the next big step in television programming.
The technology offers up to 10 times the detail of current standard-definition television broadcasts and HD broadcasts will be in the wide screen aspect ratio of all high-definition televisions (HDTVs).
Tan said that a treat for subscribers of Astro B.yond is that the World Cup 2010 would be broadcast in HD.
Existing subscribers who own HDTVs can upgrade to Astro B.yond for an extra RM20 per month to get the HD channels on top of their current subscription package.
New subscribers will have to pay for the standard installation and subscription fee of the non-HD Astro service before upgrading to the HD service.
The price includes a new decoder, satellite dish and remote control, all of which have to be replaced to get the new HD channels.
According to Astro chief executive office Datuk Rohana Rozhan, the company has spent about RM200mil to upgrade nearly every aspect of the company’s hardware and infrastructure in preparation for high-definition programming.
Subscribers who wish to upgrade to Astro B.yond can call 1-300-82-3838 or log on to www.astro.com.my/byond to apply.
If you have bought a HDTV and been complaining about the lack of high definition content from Astro, hold on to your horses because the company is set to introduce its HD service by the end of the year.
The company has been quietly upgrading its infrastructure, from cameras to launching the Measat 3A satellite, and is ready to roll out HD programming on its satellite network, said Paul Dale, Astro’s chief technology officer.
The HD channels that are going to be launched will be in 1080i. However, not all channels will be available in HD.
The first phase of the rollout will include popular channels, namely sports, documentaries and movie channels with more to come in the near future.
Details on the particular channels that will go HD will only be available at the launch date but it’s a given that the National Geographic and ESPN channels will be available in HD.
Local programming in HD is currently in the second phase of the plan and Astro is currently in the process of upgrading video cameras and other equipment.
To receive HD broadcast, consumers will be required to upgrade their TVs to HDTVs as well as change the current set-top box and satellite dish.
On top of the HD broadcasts, Astro is also working on a number of new services including a revamped channel guide and other new features.
The new set-top box will have a HDMI connection, composite outputs, Ethernet port, an USB port and even a digital audio output for 5.1-channel surround sound audio.
The Ethernet port on the set-top box even allows for the delivery of the video channels via the wired broadband connection although this, again, is in a future phase.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the new set-top box is that it comes with a high speed USB port so that you can connect any external hard disk to turn receiver into a digital recorder.
You can’t distribute the video on the hard disk though as each programme recorded is protected by DRM, so that it can only be viewed using the set-top box.
However, the video recording feature will not be available in the first stage of the rollout and will be enabled in a future firmware update.
The official consumer launch will be before the year-end.