Following the news that further HD channels are set to become available on the UK’s DTT platform, the BBC has announced it will launch five new subscription-free BBC HD channels. The new channels – BBC News HD, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and CBBC HD – will launch by early 2014 and will be offered to all digital television platforms that carry HD channels.
The five new HD channels will be broadcast on satellite, covering approximately 99 per cent of UK homes from launch. On digital terrestrial television (Freeview HD and YouView), BBC Three HD and CBBC HD will use capacity on the BBC’s existing HD multiplex, which has 98.5 per cent coverage of UK homes. BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD will use the newly-announced HD capacity, which will cover part of the UK and grow in coverage over time. The five new HD channels will also be offered to TV platform operators that run their own networks, such as cable TV and IPTV operators.
The new channels will broadcast the same programmes as their standard definition equivalents in HD, giving viewers access to a further 250 hours of HD programmes per week than is currently available from the BBC. The majority of HD programmes from these channels will also be available to watch on demand via BBC iPlayer.
In addition, within the next six months, the BBC will present to the BBC Trust a proposal covering the technical options and timetable to launch English Regional variants of BBC One HD and variants of BBC Two HD for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
These announcements follow the successful launch of BBC One HD in 2010 and, in the past nine months, BBC One Scotland HD, BBC One Wales HD, BBC One Northern Ireland HD and BBC Two HD. Meanwhile, audience demand for HD channels continues to grow. Over 50 per cent of homes in the UK are already HD enabled, with reports estimating that the number of HD homes is expected to grow to reach over 20 million (80 per cent of all UK homes) by 2016 and over 23 million homes (90 per cent of all UK homes) by 2019.
BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, says: “BBC One HD and BBC Two HD have already proved to be highly valued by our audiences and I’m delighted that we’re able to follow this with the launch of five new subscription-free BBC HD channels by early 2014. These new channels will allow us to showcase more of our programming at its very best.”
Ilse Howling, Managing Director, Freeview, said the platform was “delighted” by the announcements from Ofcom, the BBC and Arqiva.“Importantly, this is good news for millions of Freeview HD viewers whose appetite for more HD channels has been growing since Freeview HD launched in 2010. The new services will also encourage further take-up of HD equipment,” she predicted.