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Comcast Adds 5 HD Networks in Philly

Comcast said that Tuesday it has added A&E HD, Food Network HD, HGTV HD, National Geographic HD and NFL Network HD in most of its hometown market and surrounding counties.

Comcast, which like other cable TV operators is facing an HD-centric marketing onslaught from satellite-TV provider DirecTV, said the five HD networks have joined the lineup in Philadelphia and nearby Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery counties and in New Castle, Del. The channels join the lineup in Chester County, Pa., in November.

Comcast’s high-definition TV lineup includes HD versions of all major broadcast networks; ESPN HD; ESPN2 HD; NFL Network HD; HD versions of Starz, HBO, Cinemax and Showtime; and others including Discovery HD Theater, Universal HD, MOJO, MHD and TNT HD.

NFL Network HD is only be available to subscribers that get the Sports Entertainment Package tier that carries NFL Network (and other programmers) in standard definition. Comcast is battling NFL Network in court over Comcast’s ability to carry the channel on a sports tier, whereas the National Football League wants the channel carried on expanded basic.

Comcast charges $5 for the Sports Entertainment Package, but is offering it for $1.99 per month through the end of 2007, Comcast Cable Eastern Division public relations VP Jeff Alexander said.

Chris Ellis, senior manager of corporate communications at Comcast, said other Comcast systems already have added Scripps Networks’ HD versions of Food and HGTV, and that systems have also been adding the National Geographic and A&E HD channels. Others Comcast systems will be adding include Turner Broadcasting services CNN HD and TBS HD, he said. The TBS HD channel launches Oct. 1, just ahead of the network’s first-ever broadcasts of Major League Baseball divisional series playoff games, but thus far only a distribution agreement with DirecTV has been announced. More deals for the service are expected to be announced before launch, though. AT&T also has said it has a TBS HD agreement for its U-verse TV service.

MGM also has indicated it expects to sign a carriage deal with Comcast for MGM HD, its new channel. Comcast owns 20% of MGM.