By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Channel 10 today became the first commercial broadcaster to launch what is essentially a high definition multi-channel, Ten HD, which the network claims is also the first new commercial free-to-air station in a mainland metro area in 40 years.

Unlike the existing Channel Ten high definition simulcast, Ten HD will at times offer different programming from the network’s main channel, with a focus on showcasing premium 1080i programs such as live sport, entertainment, movies, documentaries and science fiction.

The new station – located at channel one in the digital band – will offer consumers more reason to purchase high definition digital TV equipment needed to access the alternative programming, such as digital integrated HD flat panel TVs and set top boxes.

Ten chief executive officer, Grant Blackey, said the new HD channel also represents an opportunity for the network to boost its offering to viewers.

“We are no longer bound by a single linear channel, and Ten HD is a natural step in our goal to make our content as widely available as possible to consumers,” said Blackey.

“We were the first network to start broadcasting in digital, the first to launch a high definition demonstration service, and we remain the only Australian network transmitting in full HDand offering live HD sport,” he said.

“Now we’ll be first to market with a breakaway HD channel, delivering unprecedented free entertainment choice to Australian consumers.”

In addition to standard network programming, Ten HD will offer themed nights such as Sci-Fi Saturday, HD documentaries from National Geographic, 11 hours of time-shifted programming per week including the 5pm News and extensions to the network’s big-event franchises such as The Biggest Loser, Australian Idol, Big Brother and So You Think You Can Dance.

The service will be broadcast in 1920×1080 interlaced (1080i) resolution with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack, delivering potentially better quality viewing than DVD home cinema.

Blackey said high definition broadcasting is no longer a niche and represents the future of TV.

“HD is truly a consumer product right now, with the entry price continuing to tumble and literally dozens of equipment options available,” he said.

“This is reflected in the take-up figures, which also demonstrate that once viewers experience true HD, they never want to go back.”

Ten was recently involved in the launch of the HD Tick logo, which will appear on digital TV products to indicate which products are certified for high definition capability.