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Unless you've been under a rock, or subscribed to Cable, you are likely intimately aware of DirecTV's promise of having 100 national high definition channels in service by the end of 2007. Sounds good, doesn't it? 100 National channels of HD content! As you might imagine, this raises more than a few questions. Some of the more frequent ones I've heard are:

  • What channels will these be?
  • Will {insert favorite channel here} be among them?
  • How will they carry 100 HD channels if there aren't 100 networks with HD content?
  • How much will this cost me?

This article will attempt to answer every one of these questions. I will list DirecTV's current offerings as well as a list of those networks with which they have agreements for carriage starting this fall. I will also list those networks which are currently carried by other providers which DirecTV may pick up as part of this 100. And you know what the best part is? According to DirecTV, there are no plans to increase the price of the HD package above the current price of $9.99! The only unknown at this point is the quality. Will it be on par with the current offerings? Will it be better? Let's hope it's one of those two.

The Promise

This is apparently a point of confusion for many. DirecTV has announced the planned capacity for 150 national high definition channels. Many have mistakenly taken this to mean that they will have 150 HD channels by years-end, which was not promised, and is not likely. At CES this year, DirecTV announced their plans for carriage of 100 national high definition channels. From the January 8, 2007 press release:

DIRECTV, the nation's leading satellite television service provider, is hailing 2007 as the "Year of HD" with the planned launch and carriage of 100 national high-definition (HD) channels. With this substantial HD muscle, DIRECTV will offer three-times more HD programming than any other multi-channel distributor, with the majority of these channels launching in Q3.

That is the quote by which they will be measured in this article.

All of this additional HD content is being made possible by the launch of two new satellites: DirecTV 10 and 11. These new satellites support a new transmission protocol as well as the more efficient MPEG4/AVC codec, which will allow much better use of the available bandwidth. DirecTV 10 will be launched later this summer, and will be operation in Q3 to support all this new programming. DirecTV 11 will be launched in early 2008 to support further expansion of HD programming. When these two satellites are operational, DirecTV will be able to deliver more than 1,500 local HD and digital channels and 150 national HD channels.

The Fine Print

Since the original announcement, DirecTV has come forward on a few occasions to help us understand how they will be getting to 100 HD channels by the end of this year. They've also dropped hints as to which channels WILL NOT be included. These "fine print" items are as follows:

  • Since the local East and West Networks feeds are "national HD channels", those count. There are currently 8 of these from channel 80-89.
  • In an article at Multichannel News, DirecTV Group chief financial officer Michael Palkovic indicated that some of these 100 channels will be multiple feeds from sports packages such as "NFL Sunday Ticket", adding that only 70 or 80 of the 100 promised would be considered year-round. Last season, DirecTV ran the Sunday Ticket HD NFL games on 9 channels in the 700 range.
  • In that same article, Mr. Palkovic also indicated that the Voom channels would NOT be among the 100. Specifically, he said "there is nothing like that that people would consider not really quality channels." So those are not included in the last table below.
  • In their latest press release, DirecTV stated they plan to offer the HD feeds of regional sports networks on a nationwide basis this fall, which means they will likely be counting those as well. They are included below.
  • Also in their latest press release, it was indicated that they have commitments from a number of other networks to launch their HD simulcasts, and that they will be added to the lineup for launch by year-end and will be announced at a later date. That gives us some hints as to which networks may be coming next.

Current Channels

1HBO HD (East)70
2Showtime HD (East)71
5Universal HD74
6TNT HD75OK, so this one may be a stretch (pun intended), but we're giving them the benefit of the doubt.
7Discovery HD Theater76
8HDNet Movies78
10CBS (East)80
11CBS (West)81
12NBC (East)82
13NBC (West)83
14ABC (East)86
15ABC (West)87
16Fox (East)88
17Fox (West)89
18RSN HD95
19RSN HD96
20National Geographic HD98This one is only available at select "sneak peek" times, typically in the middle of the night (i.e., not yet 24/7)
21CD USA101
22YES HD622
23NESN HD623
24SNY HD625
25CSN HD629
26NFL Sunday Ticket 1719
27NFL Sunday Ticket 2720
28NFL Sunday Ticket 3721
29NFL Sunday Ticket 4722
30NFL Sunday Ticket 5723
31NFL Sunday Ticket 6724
32NFL Sunday Ticket 7725
33NFL Sunday Ticket 8726
34NFL Sunday Ticket 9727

Announced Channels

The following channels have been announced for availability this fall:

35A&E HD1/8/2007
36ABC Family HD5/23/2007
37Animal Planet HD5/23/2007
38Bravo HD1/8/2007
39Big Ten Network5/23/2007
40Cartoon Network HD1/8/2007
41Chiller HD5/23/2007
42CNBC HD5/23/2007
43CNN HD1/8/2007
44Discovery Channel HD5/23/2007This is different from Discovery HD Theater, which DirecTV already carries. Discovery Channel HD will be an HD simulcast of the "regular" Discovery Channel
45TBD5/23/2007Discovery will be announcing two networks to be launched at a later date and carried by DirecTV
47Disney Channel HD5/23/2007
48ESPNews HD5/23/2007
49Food Network HD1/8/2007
50FX HD1/8/2007
51HGTV HD1/8/2007
52The Movie Channel HD5/23/2007
53MTV HD1/8/2007
54NFL Network HD1/8/2007
55SciFi Channel HD1/8/2007
56Science Channel HD5/23/2007
57Speed Channel HD1/8/2007
58TBS HD1/8/2007
59Toon Disney HD5/23/2007
60History Channel HD1/8/2007
61Showtime HD (West)5/23/2007
62Starz HD (East)5/23/2007
63Starz HD (West)5/23/2007
64Starz Edge HD5/23/2007
65Starz Comedy HD5/23/2007
66Starz Kids & Family HD5/23/2007
67Tennis Channel HD5/23/2007
68TLC (The Learning Channel) HD5/23/2007
69Versus HD5/23/2007
70Weather Channel HD1/8/2007
71USA Network HD1/8/2007

Other Channels

So what will round out the 100 channels? As mentioned in "fine print" above, the nationally broadcast special sports packages will count, so we have included some of those in the table below. We have also included some other channels here that are currently carried by other networks which may end up being announced as part of DirecTV's initiative. Note that the channels listed below HAVE NOT necessarily been announced by DirecTV.

72NFL Sunday Ticket 10Since DirecTV carries as many as 13 games any given week, we'll assume that they will broadcast 100% HD this year and add an additional 4 channels to what they carried last year.
73NFL Sunday Ticket 11
74NFL Sunday Ticket 12
75NFL Sunday Ticket 13
76PBS (East)These are included only because they are the only "major" network missing from their current East/West feeds. Just a guess.
77PBS (West)
78Cinemax HD (East)
79Cinemax HD (West)
80Nickelodeon HD
81Outdoor Channel 2 HD
82Playboy HD
83Wealth TV HD
84FSN ArizonaGranted, not all of these are likely to be added, but these are the networks as indicated by Fox Sports that are slated to produce local HD programs.
85FSN Bay Area
86FSN Florida
87FSN North
88FSN Northwest
89FSN BPittsburgh
90FSN South
91FSN Southwest
92Sun Sports
93FSN Utah
94FSN West
95FSN West 2
96Comcast SportsNet - PhiladelphiaAgain, not all of these are likely to be added, but these are the networks on which Comcast currently carries HD programming
97Comcast SportsNet - Baltimore/Washington D.C.
98Comcast SportsNet - Chicago
99Comcast SportsNet - Sacramento
100Comcast SportsNet - New York

In Summary

There you have it, 100 exactly. I could go on with other options, but I think I've hit the most likely candidates. Regardless of who your HD provider is this is good news. If you're already with DirecTV, great. If not, your provider will certainly be wondering how they can keep up. For updates to the above tables, please check the page we have dedicated to DirecTV's HD offerings.

Posted by Shane Sturgeon, June 11, 2007 6:45 AM

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About Shane Sturgeon

Shane Sturgeon is the Co-Publisher and Chief Technologist of HDTV Magazine, an industry publication with HDTV roots going back to 1984, when Dale Cripps founded The HDTV Newsletter. Today, HDTV Magazine is a leading online resource for HDTV news and information and captures the eyes and imaginations of over 3 million visitors annually. Mr. Sturgeon has a background in information technology and has served in various consulting capacities for Fortune 500 companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Verizon Communications, Proctor & Gamble and Nationwide Insurance. He has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Wright State University.