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Dish Upping HD-Channel Count in 2008

EchoStar Communications' Dish Network plans to launch three new satellites this year, which will give the satellite-TV company the capacity to offer 100 national HD channels and expand its carriage of local HD channels to 100 markets.

The company will up its suite of national channels from 76 to 100 and will offer local HD channels in 65 new local markets in the coming year. The first 11 local markets to launch will be: Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Cleveland; Columbia, S.C.; Flint, Mich.; Greenville, S.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; Jackson, Miss.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; and Richmond, Va.

“The addition of new HD national and local channels is a testament to Dish Network's unwavering focus on providing the best HD offerings," senior vice president of programming Eric Sahl said in a statement. "We at Dish Network will continue to not only be a leader in the number of HD channels, but also in quality in value."

In conjunction with the rollout, Dish is planning to expand its offering of HD packages beginning Feb. 1 which will start at $10 per month for a package of 20 channels. The company is also planning price freezes for some of its programming packages, including America’s Top 100 and 200 ($39.99 and $49.99 per month, respectively) and DishFamily ($19.99 per month). As part of its promotional effort, Dish is offering new customers a free ViP722 HD digital-video recorder, three months' free programming, waived activation fees and nine free months of its Dish Home Protection Plan.

The battle for HD superiority heated up in 2007 after DirecTV set goals to offer 100 linear channels by the end of the year and 150 by the end of 2008. Last fall, Verizon Communications announced it also will offer 150 HD channels by the end of 2008 and will have 1000 HD titles on-demand by the end of the year. Cable operators have countered these claims touting their HD on-demand libraries while offering small suites of linear HD channels.