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U.K.: Sky’s E4 HD to Preview Freeview

While Rupert Murdoch is busy back in the States trying to up the per-subscriber ante on his Fox Sports content for American cablers and DBS providers (and subsequently on U.S. pay-TV customers) his Sky DBS service in Europe is actually offering some HD services to its HD subs for free. For now, at least.

Sky’s HD customers began receiving an HD simulcast of E4 at no extra cost in mid-December. E4 HD is filling in as a sort of HD version of Channel 4. (Channel 4 HD is expected to launch on Freeview later in 2010 after the government-funded service goes HD.)

The addition of E4 HD, which also is now being offered on Virgin Media throughout the United Kingdom, grows the total number of channels available via Sky’s HD tier to 36.

Despite the fact that Europe began ramping up DTV before the United States — but gave little priority to HD, per se, for digital TV’s first few years — the U.K.’s initiatives in the past couple of years to grow its HD services (both free and pay-TV) is proving timely, said Sarah Rose, channel development chief at Channel 4, in a statement.

“The growing appetite for HD across the U.K. is clear to see. We were quick to respond to this demand in launching Channel 4 HD, and with the launch of E4 HD [on Sky] we look forward to delivering our viewers even more of the shows they love in stunning high definition,” Rose said.