Comcast Rides 51 HD Channels Into S.F. Bay Area

Comcast next month will launch 80 new digital networks -- including 51 high-definition channels -- in parts of its San Francisco-area service area, after clearing a wide swath of spectrum through its Project Cavalry analog-reclamation initiative.

The new programming lineup will become available Aug. 11 in 26 communities in the South Bay and North Bay, which will now have access to a total of 92 HD networks. Other additions include 13 Spanish-language channels, 14 international premium networks and two standard-definition channels, Hallmark Movie Channel and Retirement Living TV.

The analog-reclamation project is being advertised to consumers as "The World of More," conveying the idea that moving analog channels in the expanded-basic lineup to digital-only delivery will open up room for more programming, faster broadband speeds and more VOD content. In the Bay Area regions it has converted, Comcast has migrated 46 analog channels to digital, but will continue to distribute local broadcast, PEG and other channels in analog.

The new HD networks include: BET HD, Biography Channel HD, Bravo HD, Cartoon Network HD, CBS College Sports HD, CNBC HD, Comedy Central HD, Disney XD HD, E! HD, Encore HD, ESPN News HD, Fox Business Network HD, Fox News Channel HD, FX HD, IFC HD, Lifetime HD, MGM HD, MLB Network HD, MSNBC HD, MTV HD, NBA TV HD, NHL Network HD, Nickelodeon HD, Outdoor Channel HD, QVC HD, Speed HD, Travel Channel HD, VH1 HD, WE HD and The Weather Channel HD. The full list of networks Comcast is adding in the Bay Area, plus details on channel changes for 29 networks, is available here.

Comcast has initiated Project Cavalry in several markets to date, including Portland, Ore., Philadelphia, New Jersey and northern Delaware. The operator expects to spend $1 billion on the digital conversion, targeted for completion nationwide by the end of 2010.

In the Bay Area, Comcast is using digital transport adapters (DTAs) supplied by Pace. The low-cost devices translate digital TV signals into analog format.

Expanded basic customers are eligible to receive one free digital set-top and two DTAs; each additional DTA is $1.99 per month. Current digital customers with expanded basic on additional outlets also will receive two free DTAs for their additional outlets.

Comcast's California region, based in Livermore, provides service to 2.4 million customers in Northern and Central California. The MSO has 7,500 employees across the region.

The cities that will receive the enhanced lineup effective Aug. 11 are: Belvedere, Corte Madera, Cupertino, Fairfax, Forest Knolls, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Lagunitas, Larkspur, Los Altos, Marin, Mill Valley, Milpitas, Mountain View, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Geronimo, San Quentin, San Rafael, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Sausalito, Sunnyvale, Tiburon and Woodacre. (Comcast said Los Altos, Milpitas, Saratoga and Sunnyvale have already launched 12 of the HD networks and Retirement Living TV, so customers in those cities will be receiving 67 new networks).

Comcast said it will continue the digital migration in other portions of the Bay Area through the rest of the year, and those areas will receive the new programming in subsequent phases.