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YES Bulks Up Hi-Def Coverage

YES Network will now provide high-definition coverage of all New York Yankees games, both home and away, on YES HD, a new standalone HD channel that launches April 1. YES, which telecast its first HD game in 2004 and produced about two-thirds of Yankees games in HD last year, has secured carriage for the HD service on DirecTV as well as major cable operators Comcast, Time Warner and Cablevision.

YES HD will also feature all studio programs in HD, including pre- and post-game shows, “Yankees Batting Practice Today,” and select “Mike & the Mad Dog” shows, utilizing a new 1200-square-foot HD control room within its Stamford, Ct. headquarters. Beginning in late fall, YES plans to expand its high-definition offerings by providing high-definition coverage of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets home and away games throughout the 2007-08 season.

YES Chief Operating Officer Ray Hopkins says that YES is moving to HD to maintain its “gold standard” production values for regional sports coverage. He notes that YES HD also meets demand from affiliates who are “looking to have highly-rated products in HD in order to drive HD penetration.”

YES will also have the ability to deliver commercials in HD, though Hopkins isn’t sure what percentage of spots will be hi-def at launch. He notes that a small number of advertisers, including consumer electronics concerns like Sony, have run HD spots on YES in the past.

Starting with the Yankees home opener on April 2, YES HD will also offer “bonus cam” views and other interactive features, such as in-depth pitching and batting stats, through the YES Interactive on DirecTV service. YES Interactive, which relies on the processing power of DirecTV set-top boxes to generate the extra graphics, was only available in standard-definition last year.

New features for 2007 include in-game “Rival Alerts” that give frequent scoring updates on that longtime Yankees nemesis, the Boston Red Sox (unless they fall too far behind in the standings), as well as more in-depth “out-of-town scoreboard” statistics on other MLB games, including real-time situational updates on pitchers, batters and pitch count.

“Last year, you could scroll to the right and see who’s pitching, who’s batting and who’s on base,” says Hopkins. “Now for the same game, for example, you’re able to see that Texas has Mike James pitching, Boston has David Ortiz batting, and the count is 3 and 2.”

YES experienced strong usage for YES Interactive last season, as 42% of DirecTV viewers who had access to the service used it. Out of that subset, 82% used it more than once, and 25% used it 11 times or more.