03.29.2006 12:00 AM
UK: BBC, Sky Confirm World Cup and Wimbledon Trials
The BBC's recently announced plans to include both the Wimbledon tennis tourney and the World Cup soccer match-ups this summer as part of its planned trial of HD in the UK may be destined to make a significant HD imprint on Britain, at least as far as perception, since virtually all HD viewers will have to watch from the comfort of their neighborhood pubs and cafes, rather than at home.

The government-subsidized broadcast service's trial will be available to cable and DBS Sky subs who have HD set-top boxes, although published reports have indicated a shortage of STBs, or not enough time for installation for many consumers. The World Cup will be the first major sports event to be broadcast in HD in the UK, although only a few thousand homes (and perhaps only about 100,000 homes throughout the continent of Europe) likely will have household HD STBs in time. The first live HD World Cup match will be the opening contest of Germany vs. Costa Rica on June 9.

The BBC said its "summer of HD" will continue with matches from Wimbledon (which also will be covered in HD by NBC Universal in the U.S.). HD coverage of the start of the tennis classic in late June apparently will run simultaneously with the end of World Cup coverage in early July.

Details also began emerging this week that Sky will begin to roll out DBS HD services in May, prior to Wimbledon and the World Cup. Sky subs will need an HD box reportedly costing 299 pounds sterling (about $522), and pay an extra monthly fee.

This month, the 84-year-old BBC (known as "Auntie" or the "Beeb" by many Brits) reportedly learned that much of its requested long-term funding -- including extra money earmarked for its HD transition -- had been approved by the various powers-that-be. However, the amount of future license fees imposed on TV and radio users has not yet been determined.

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