Cablevision Systems has announced plans to offer a satellite-to-home HDTV service across the continental United States beginning Oct. 15. Called Voom, the new venture will begin by distributing a core of 21 exclusive HD channels.
The New York-area cable television provider says its satellite division, Rainbow DBS, which will operate the service, will eventually offer as many as 39 high-definition channels, as many as 88 popular standard definition cable channels, and local digital over-the-air programming. No service fee information was available.
If Voom lives up to its billing, it would become the nation’s largest HDTV service. Cablevision said that the new service’s uniqueness lies in the fact that rival U.S. satellite and cable operators have to date offered no more than seven syndicated HDTV channels.
Cablevision chairman Charles F. Dolan also announced that Mickey Alpert will lead Rainbow DBS as senior executive vice president and chief operating officer. Alpert comes from Alpert & Associates, where he has provided consulting services in the communications and entertainment industries since 1986. Previously, he served as a senior officer of Comsat, where he led the development of the first U.S. direct broadcast satellite (DBS) initiative.
“Almost six million consumers have bought HDTV sets and other home theater equipment, only to find that the high-definition programming they are looking for simply doesn’t exist,” said Alpert. “We will fill that gap by launching an exclusive Voom package of 21 HD channels built around the interests of these high-end consumers, while also pulling together existing HDTV programming with a complement of cable favorites, premium packages and local digital over-the-air programming.”
In addition, Rainbow DBS said it would use over-the-air antennas to pickup and deliver local digital broadcast services in both HD and SD to its customers.
Cablevision said the Rainbow 1 telecommunications satellite, launched in July, is now fully operational and began broadcasting to beta test homes on October 1.
Consumer hardware for the Voom service will include a satellite dish and a specially designed set-top receiver manufactured by Motorola, as well as a digital antenna for local broadcast signals. In markets with local HDTV programming, local channels will be integrated into the same user interface with the Voom offerings.
Voom will initially broadcast in MPEG-2, with an upgrade to MPEG-4 expected for the third quarter of 2004. Using MPEG-4, Rainbow DBS will be able to broadcast more than 200 channels, including at least 39 HDTV services. The Motorola receiver was designed to be easily upgradeable to MPEG-4, so that customers will not have to replace their receivers to receive the additional programming choices.
To sign up for the new HD service, visit: www.voom.com.