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Olympics Host China Launches First HD Channel

China Central Television (CCTV) will roll out the first HD channel in the world's most populous nation this week (Sept. 8) for viewers in Hangzhou. The service will feature movies, TV series, documentaries and animated features, according to published reports and the two designated TV service providers--CTV Media and China DTV Media (both controlled by CCTV).

After a four-month trial in Hangzhou, the capital city of China's eastern Zhejiang Province, the HD service will formally launch nationwide in January, when the typical broadcast day will expand from 15 to 18 hours. The Web site of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates China's population at slightly more than 1.3 billion, or 20 percent of the world's population. (The U.S. population is currently 295 million.)

Although China has started up nearly a hundred digital channels in recent years, very few Chinese citizens are expected to have the required HD sets and the set-top boxes (STBs cost 2,500 yuan, or $301) for HD services. Although the government is not yet actively promoting DTV, digital viewers will reach about 1.2 million by the end of this year, according to the government's Ministry of Industry Information.

China will host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and air most of its government-run coverage in HD. It plans to begin DBS services in 2006, to start promoting digital terrestrial TV by 2008, and to switch off analog broadcasts by 2015.