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A&E Set for June HD Preview

A&E Network will launch a new HD network this September following a preview of the service that begins this June.

The network will be a simulcast of the analog A&E network, offering HD viewers the exact same program. Non-HD programming will be stretched to fill the wider screen of HD sets while those programs available in HD will be shown in HD widescreen. Current plans call for an increase in HD content every quarter with a goal of reaching about 90-95% by the end of 2007.

Abbe Raven, president and CEO of AETN, says the preview will give A&E cable and satellite affiliates a taste of the programming (in September the network will debut with a CSI: Miami marathon).

A&E currently has no carriage agreements for the HD service.That could prove important as the HD landscape has become crowded with a number of networks (MTV, HGTV, Food Network, NatGeo and now A&E HD) waiting for room on cable systems. The problem is getting carriage as cable operators find themselves battling bandwidth constraints anddedicating more bandwidth for services like VOD and other digital TV offerings that have a clearer return on investment.

“The challenge will be getting cable operators to overcome their bandwidth issues,” acknowledges David Zagin, AETN EVP, distribution. “That is something the affiliates are dealing with more than ever and the conversations we’ve had have been very positive. So I’m confident they’ll help deliver the product.”

Zagin expects AETN to find carriage success because its quality of HD content, not quantity, that matters. “CSI:Miami and The Sopranos will provide us a great foundation to build on,” he says.