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A&E Has Eye on HD

In its latest platform push, A&E Network will move toward an enhanced presentation this fall with the debut of an HD network that will simulcast the service’s programming.

The move follows A&E Television Networks’ initiatives in the video-on-demand and broadband realms.

A&E will preview the new HD service in June, but it will officially launch the channel Labor Day Weekend with a CSI: Miami marathon.

AETN executive vice president of distribution David Zagin said that at launch, 65% of A&E’s primetime schedule will available in true HD, including new original shows like King of Cars, as well as fresh episodes of returning series Cold Case Files, The First 48, Driving Force, Inked and Dallas SWAT.

A&E VP of program planning Tom Moody said the network is allocating an additional 10%-25% to film its programming in the format, but the money is being well-spent.

“By 2008, 85%-90% of the primetime schedule will be HD,” Zagin said. “We recognize that the first wave of networks has gone HD, but the timing was right for A&E from a programming perspective with the anchors of CSI: Miami and The Sopranos in 2007. We just think that we have the programming, the commitment and the brand that can help affiliates to sell their HD tier.”

Zagin said the company has just begun to negotiate with operators and satellite providers. for the channel. Unlike many HD networks, he added, programming on the channel will either be true HD or offer a wide-screen format to eliminate the black bars that appear on the screen for shows that aren’t presented in the format.

Meanwhile, sister network The History Channel won’t offer its own enhanced service until sometime next year. “As we have discussions with operators and get an idea of what their bandwidth looks like and what the appetite is for more HD product, it will help direct us a to whether its early 2007 or late 2007,” Zagin said.

For more on AETN’s HD initiatives please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 58 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.