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YES to launch Yankees HD channel

Beginning on April 1, the YES Network will launch a new channel to broadcast all New York Yankees games — home and away — in the 1080i HD format.

YES HD will be carried on Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cablevision and DirecTV, assuring that 95 percent of the network's existing audience will have access to the HD broadcasts.

In addition to 128 regular season Yankees baseball games, YES HD will also broadcast the home and away basketball games of the NBA's New Jersey Nets in HD this fall.

Also, all YES studio programs will get the HD treatment. Those include pre- and postgame shows, “Yankees Batting Practice Today” and select “Mike & the Mad Dog” shows. The studio broadcasts will originate from the network's new 1200sq-ft HD control room in Stamford, CT.

For those sponsors ready to take the HD plunge, the YES facility will be equipped to air commercials in HD, though it was not known how many will be doing so when the network launches.

DirecTV viewers will get added bonus cam views and other interactive features beginning with the Yankees home opener on April 2. Because DirecTV set-top boxes have the computing power to handle extra graphics, YES HD will offer extras such as in-depth pitching and batting stats. Those features were previously available only in SD resolution.

Another new feature this year is in-game Rival Alerts that give frequent scoring updates on perennial Yankees foe, the Boston Red Sox. There will also be in-depth out-of-town scoreboard statistics on other MLB games and real-time updates on specific pitchers, batters and the current pitch count.

Hopkins said the interactive features were popular last season, with 42 percent of DirecTV viewers who had access to the service using it. Of those users, 82 percent used it more than once and 25 percent used it 11 times or more.

The Yankees' Web presence is also getting a boost for the new season. There will be highlight clips from each Yankees game, as well as a new feature called Postgame Plus, a collection of regularly updated studio analyses and locker-room interviews.

The company said that YES sponsors that have added digital to their media buys include Chevrolet, Infiniti, Ford and Toyota, as well as the stolen-vehicle recovery system, LoJack.