StarHub launches HDTV service

Singapore pay TV operator scores a first with two new high definition television (HDTV) channels for goggle box lovers.

SINGAPORE--StarHub has become the first pay TV operator to introduce high definition television (HDTV) services in Southeast Asia.

According to a statement Thursday, StarHub said it has added two HDTV channels, Discovery and National Geographic, to its buffet of existing cable TV offerings.

The two channels will be bundled into a new content group called HD Plus, with a subscription fee of S$15 (US$9.75), excluding taxes. To enjoy the new service, StarHub said consumers must first subscribe to a minimum of three Basic Group channel packages and HD Plus. They must also purchase StarHub's HD set-top box for S$285 (US$185), and own a HD-ready TV set.

To lure more subscribers to the new HDTV service, those who sign up for a 12-month StarHub Digital Cable contract can buy a HD set-top box for S$95 (US$62). In addition, consumers who purchase selected models of Samsung LCD and plasma TVs will receive a free HD set-top box and a 12-month subscription to HD Plus.

Trials for StarHub's HDTV service commenced during the World Cup football competition in June 2006. The trial involved 1,000 StarHub Digital Cable customers who could watch all 64 World Cup matches, plus programs from Discovery and National Geographic Channel.

Singapore broadcaster MediaCorp also conducted a similar trial during the same period with 1,000 selected households, who were provided with set-top boxes to receive terrestrial HDTV programs.

StarHub President and CEO Terry Clontz said: "We are very excited about our HDTV launch, and are proud that we are the first operator in Southeast Asia to introduce the service commercially."

He added: "Our introduction of Digital Cable in 2004, Demand TV in 2005 and Smart TV in 2006 are examples of how we give customers more control over what they watch, and when they watch their favorite programs. And who knows, maybe someday we can even give customers choice on where they can view their favorite programs too."

Apart from sharper and more vivid images, HDTV customers can also enjoy onscreen TV guides, Web browsing and complimentary games, among others.

Tom Keaveny, managing director and executive vice president at Discovery Networks Asia, added: "Discovery HD will deliver an audio and visual experience that is richer, deeper and more expansive than ever before.

"We were the first international HD channel to launch in Japan in 2005, and with this launch in Singapore, Discovery HD is now available in 15 international markets and over nine million households," he said.

As Singapore begins its foray into HDTV, Japan and Korea are the only two Asian countries that have begun broadcasting in that format commercially. Japan's NHK has transmitted programs in high-definition since the early 90s, while South Korea did so in 2005.