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Starz Moves to MPEG-4 with Motorola

Starz Entertainment said it will begin migrating its satellite transmissions from MPEG-2 compression to MPEG-4 advanced compression by investing in a four-channel, HD MPEG-4/AVC encoding system from cable-equipment giant Motorola.

The premium programmer became the latest cable network to adopt MPEG-4 compression to conserve satellite bandwidth as it expands its HD offerings.

The Motorola MPEG-4 system -- currently being implemented for Starz’s existing HD channels Starz E, Starz Kids and Family HD, Starz Edge HD and Starz Comedy HD -- compresses, encrypts, modulates and receives HD signals within a single integrated transmission system.

Also included in the new transmission system is DVB-S2 satellite modulation gear, which can increase a satellite transponder’s output by up to 50%. Starz said upcoming HD channel Encore HD will also be launched using MPEG-4.

A key selling point for the Motorola MPEG-4 system, said Ray Milius, senior vice president of programming operations and information technology for Starz, was its development of an integrated receiver/decoder for affiliates, the DSR-6050, that will receive the MPEG-4 signals and then transcode them to MPEG-2 compression for delivery to existing digital cable set-top boxes.

HBO also cited the importance of such backward-compatible receivers when it selected Motorola last year for its conversion to MPEG-4 delivery for all of its networks.

"Starz has a history of delivering the best in first-run, hit films in HD, and we continue to expand our programming lineup with the highest quality for our viewers,” Milius said in a statement. "Motorola's highly efficient MPEG-4 encoding system allows us to seamlessly migrate from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 with the video quality that we require while conserving satellite bandwidth to deliver diverse additional HD content for our customers.”