FreeHD Canada Cleared to Offer up to 250 HD Channels

There’s the oft-quoted “500-channel universe” that has yet to really materialize, and now there’s the “250-HD channel universe” that seems about to—in Canada, anyway, and the move should prove to be good for local broadcasters.

FreeHD Canada, an all-HD DBS service that hopes to accelerate the country’s digital migration, has received the official blessing of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (with some restrictions) to begin offering HD services.

FreeHD Canada’s HD offerings could prove to be considerable — with inclusion of as many as 100 local TV channels in HD throughout Canada (free of charge) — as well as an additional 150 HD outlets, including Canadian, American, foreign-language cable, and PPV. (And yes, these are 250 fulltime HD channels, not “choices.”)

In its broadcaster-friendly ruling this week, the CRTC (the Canadian equivalent of the FCC), said “the Commission clearly supports in principle the offering of a package of local conventional television signals at no monthly charge to the viewers, and is predisposed to take the necessary steps to permit this to occur.”

Pending the resolution of a few lingering issues pertaining to Canada's digital transition, the CRTC insists that FreeHD Canada be required to operate like other local DBS services (notably rival Bell ExpressVu LP).

It’s widely hoped that the new competitor’s official entry into the HD marketplace will accelerate the Canadian transition to DTV, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which is currently set for August 2011.