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Europe: Canal+ Ramps up HD

Premium pay-TV channel Canal+ became available in HD to French subscribers this week while its DBS platform, CanalSat, is introducing its own HD services, including National Geographic HD Channel. Faced with some direct competition (for the moment, anyway) from current rival TPS, the Canal+ Group said all its programming from its premium outlet became available in HD on CanalSat on April 4.

Canal+ has more than 5 million subs, according to published reports, while CanalSat has more than 3 million. Canal+ Group's HD services will be marketed at nine euros (just under $11) per month.

TPS, the rival French DBS (or DTH, "direct to home"), started its own HD package in February led by TPS Star, its premium channel. That service is now reportedly providing about half its programming in HD, which is expected to increase to 80 percent by next fall. The TPS package also includes some major sports coverage. About 8,500 TPS subs had signed up for HD as of late March, with the initial delivery of set-up boxes to begin later this month.

Despite somewhat different marketing strategies by both firms, however, Canal+ and TPS reportedly plan to merge soon, pending a final okay from French regulatory authorities.