MTV Networks will launch a high-definition music channel in January, 2006 called MHD. Initial content will be music-focused fare from MTV, VH1 and CMT along with acquired concerts, music videos and original programming.
The network aims to target 18-to-34-year-olds with a wide-screen, surround sound “totally immersive experience,” said Van Toffler, MTV Networks Music Group president.
While HD programming is thought by some to be the wave of the future and MTV’s young demo is traditionally early to embrace new technology, very few viewers currently have HDTV sets.
Only 5% of all TVs in the U.S. are digital, according to Durham, N.H.-based Leichtman Research Group, which in May issued a study on HDTV penetration. Moreover, fewer than 2% of TV sets are receiving high-definition programming. And barely 1% of homes have only digital sets.
Still, other networks well suited to the medium continue to plan high-definition channels. Last month, National Geographic Channel announced it would launch an HD network in January, 2006.
Launching in HD is the latest effort by Viacom’s MTV Networks to bolster its cable channels with programming on other platforms, including the Internet and cell phones. Earlier this year, MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon started streaming broadband video on their networks’ web sites.
“We know what our audiences what, when and where they want it,” said Jessica Heacock, senior VP of affiliate marketing for MTV Networks, announcing the new channel in a studio at MTV’s Times Square headquarters.
At launch, slated for Jan. 16, MHD plans to run concert series from the three networks including VH1 Storytellers and MTV Unplugged, tent poles including the MTV Video Music Awards, acquired concerts, music videos and original content including video countdown shows, artist interviews and a series about the process of building a band.
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