MTV TO LAUNCH HIGH-DEFINITION CHANNEL

Sees HD Concerts as the Next Big Thing

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Banking on the almost 19 million HDTV sets currently in U.S. homes, MTV Networks Music Group will launch a high-definition channel called MHD in January.
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The Viacom channel, unlike other recent high-definition TV launches, including Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD, will be programmed independently rather than as a simulcast of a linear network. MTV Networks’ affiliate sales team is currently negotiating carriage of the channel.

Competitor InDemand
The move comes as competitor InDemand Networks, which runs a network of HD channels, continues to generate buzz with its HD concert offerings from stars such as Usher, Chicago and Earth Wind & Fire, Mary J. Blige and Melissa Etheridge. It aired an exclusive live performance of Bon Jovi; a Rockin the Corps special featuring Destiny’s Child; KISS; Hootie & the Blowfish; GodSmack; Ted Nugent; and a Music 101: Al Green special featuring Mary J. Blige, Joss Stone and Bonnie Raitt covering Al Green’s greatest hits. It will also tape this week’s Farm Aid concert, which it will air in November.

While 17% of the country’s 110 million TV households currently boast a high-definition set, that number is expected to increase another 8% by 2008.

“The growth will be driven by a combination of cost, value and the amount of content that’s out there,” said Nitin Gupta, a consumer electronics analyst at Yankee Group. “Right now there’s not a whole lot of content, but we’ll see that change in the next year.”

Sports currently drives HD
MTV executives believe HD music programming is the next hot genre in high-definition viewing, a category currently being driven by sports content. The channel will include content from its music channels, such as VH1 Storytellers, MTV Unplugged and CMT’s Crossroads. It will also work with record labels to license high-definition concerts.

“Right now the lure is sports,” said Peter Baron, vice president of label relations, charged with heading up programming for the new HD network. “Concerts are the next big thing.”

The network also provides a home for extended content that doesn’t find a home on the linear network.

Record labels and artists
“If Green Day shoots a three-day concert in HD, that’s content that will probably never be seen on MTV but is perfect for MHD,” said Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks. The next step, he says, is to “get record labels and artists to shoot videos in high def.”

Right now, the programming team behind MHD is working to put together specials, such as 100 Greatest Videos Ever, Mr. Baron said. The team is also trying to nail down scheduling issues and how the network may flow from one genre to another. “Do you have Tim McGraw going into Nelly?” he asked.

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