France: Broadcasters Grow Free Terrestrial HD

Four more channels will be offered to French viewers in HD for free on terrestrial DTV. The new venues starting this week (Oct. 30) include: TF1 HD, France 2 HD, M6 HD, and Arte HD. (A fifth channel, Canal Plus HD, began over-the-air service in August.)

Initially, M6, TF1 and France 2 plan to air their respective HD streams via multiplex R5—a new MPEG-4 DVB-T scheme consisting of more than two dozen transmitters that cover about 40 percent of all French TV households.

Next May, a second phase will pull in another two dozen transmitters and extend coverage to about 60 percent of France. (When all is said and done, the HD channels will penetrate about the same as what terrestrial SD signals now reach—nearly 95 percent of all French TV homes.)

The France 2 HD service will be a simulcast of the main public service channel, and while France 2 is not mandated to offer a minimum percentage of programming in HD, most of its key programs already are being produced in HD.