Dish Beams Local HD Stations in L.A.

EchoStar's Dish Network (opens in new tab) has begun offering local HD channels of the big four networks via satellite to its subscribers in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, specifically: KABC, KCBS, KNBC and KTTV. The launch in the nation's second-largest TV market is coming (not incidentally) just in time to catch the winter Olympics -- with Opening Ceremonies this Friday (Feb. 10) -- as well as last Sunday's Super Bowl XL in HD.

Dish said customers who sign up for any of its new DishHD packages can take advantage of more than 1,700 hours of HD programming every week including local HD broadcasts. Another incentive, the DBS firm said, is subs that sign up for HD services through RadioShack before Feb. 28 will be eligible for next-day installation.

One Dish package includes about 70 SD channels and two dozen HD venues (including Universal HD, ESPN1 and 2 HD, and 15 Voom channels). But to add any more local HD or SD channels will usually cost $5 per channel. And some of these new offerings reportedly are only retrievable with new MPEG-4 STBs.

Dish (like its DBS competitor, DirecTV) plans to provide local HD in at least a few dozen major/large markets by the end of 2006, transmitting new channels in the MPEG-4 standard. It recently introduced a series of satellite dishes that combine MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 capabilities, but according to news reports some current MPEG-2 dish owners in the U.S. will not have access to the new dishes for a couple of months.