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Voom Lifts Off with Free Months

New York -- Cablevision Systems Corp.'s new HD-centric satellite-TV service, Voom, went live Wednesday, and officials gathered here to show off the new product and add in some late-signed programming.

Voom will feature 39 HDTV channels and "40 to 50" channels of standard-definition programming, officials said.

The monthly price is set at $39.99, and customers are also expected to cough up another $749.99 for equipment, but programming charges are being waived through January.

Voom will have 21 original HD channels, including 13 movie channels, a world-sports channel, a news channel (launching later) and music and arts channels, including one called GalleryHD, which highlights museum paintings and architecture.

Standard-definition fare includes A&E Network, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel and related channels in those stables, along with two C-SPANs and other Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. channels.

Non-Rainbow HD offerings include networks from Showtime Networks Inc. and Starz Encore Group LLC; Discovery HD Theater; and a new pay-per-view service from Playboy Entertainment Group Inc.

Officials said last-minute deals were signed with Showtime, Starz and MTV Networks (for MTV: Music Television, VH1, Comedy Central, Spike TV, Nickelodeon and TV Land).

Some channels -- a mix of HD and SD programming -- will be sold on $14.90 tiers called "PlusPacks." Officials also touted the newly designed program guide, which includes HD video.

Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan, responding to a question, conceded that some programmers were trying to tie carriage of networks on Voom with deals with Cablevision but said the two were being kept strictly separate.

"Voom is negotiating for Voom, we're not negotiating for Cablevision," Dolan said. "For some of the industry that's a problem, but we'll get through it."

Sears, Roebuck & Co. has exclusive national retail rights through January.