Virgin Media Adds HD Content

Virgin Media, which seems to be positioning itself as "the little-engine-that could" against larger HD competitors BSkyB and Freeview in Great Britain and Ireland, said it plans to noticeably grow its HD tiers in the next several months. Discovery Channel HD will be among its most publicized additions this spring.

The digital cabler announced last week that it's counting on the Discovery addition to its HD line-up to serve as a catalyst for planned future HD expansions, including Virgin Media's growing VOD service. That on-demand menu will soon will include about 1,500 hours of HD content, featuring past and current Discovery programs such as "Deadliest Catch."

Virgin Media said its current XL subscribers will receive Discovery Channel HD at no extra cost, along with several other channels coming soon to its HD tiers. These include BBC HD, Channel 4 HD, ESPN HD, FX HD, Living HD, MTVNHD and NAT Geo HD.

Virgin Media said that it enjoys a "unique relationship" with BBC Worldwide, the commercial office of the BBC that provides the cabler a "first look" at BBC programs for secondary broadcast in the United Kingdom, including the BBC's HD growing content.

Still, exactly why Virgin Media may be building up its HD presence right now makes for some interesting speculation. The company, which owns some of the channels it provides, could be close to a sale of those channel properties to DBSer BSkyB, "following many months of negotiations," according to a Feb. 15 report in The Guardian newspaper.