Maverick NBA owner looks to jumpstart sales

Wealthy and brash Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is taking over ownership of DirecTV’s high-definition channel 199 today in hopes of personally pushing the virtues of the slow-starting HDTV to satellite customers.

Cuban’s HDNet has struck licensing and programming carriage deals with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the National Lacrosse League.

HDNet has an HDTV production truck that will roam from stadium to stadium broadcasting games and events, beginning at 5:05 p.m. today with the baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. Fifteen MLB games will be televised in September that will be available to any DirecTV subscriber at no extra charge and viewable by anyone with HDTV receiver equipment.

Cuban said his interest is in jumpstarting sales of HDTV, to which he said consumers have a favorable reaction once they see it. Many HDTV sets are comparably priced with bigscreen TVs.

In the short term during the transition period, Cuban plans to make money by selling advertising on the channel. But the primary immediate goal is to create compelling programming that will give electronics retailers something to display and give consumers a reason to buy an HDTV set.

In October, HDNet will broadcast 16 hours a day with sports programming, including 65 NHL games throughout the season, travel shows and anything else that spotlights the clarity of HDTV.

Cuban said he believes that because HDTV takes up so much bandwidth, as customers begin demanding programming in HDTV it will “marginalize a lot of cable networks” and delay the introduction of video-on-demand, since there will not be as much available bandwidth.

Therefore, he said he intends to remain focused on satellite delivery of HDTV and not cable.

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