Cabler Insight adds high def channels

$2 box brings subs p'gramming at no add'l charge

Insight Communications, the ninth-largest cable operator in the U.S., has engineered a deal that will add a wide array of high-definition programming to the menu of the company’s 1.4 million subscribers.

Two 24-hour cable networks, HD Net and HD Net Movies, have signed a contract that will place them on Insight’s existing high-definition tier with ESPN HD and Discovery HD. Insight pays these ad-supported cable networks a monthly fee of $1 per subscriber, getting its money back by charging its customers an extra $7.95 per month for the tier plus $2 a month for the cable box that funnels the enhanced picture into high-def TV sets.

For Insight subscribers who own high-def TV sets but are not willing to pay the $7.95, the $2 box brings them at no additional charge all of the high-def programming on the local TV stations affiliated with the broadcast nets as well as Bravo’s high-def clone.

And subscribers who buy HBO and Showtime will get the simultaneous high-def feeds of these pay TV networks at no extra charge beyond the $2 for the box.

Terry Denson, VP of programming for Insight Communications, said one reason Insight is embracing high def is to compete better with the satellite distributors DirecTV and EchoStar.

For technical reasons DirecTV and EchoStar can’t offer the local-station high-def feeds, Denson said, giving cable operators like Insight an advantage to people buying high-def TV sets.

And Insight is offering the high-def clones of ESPN, Discovery and HD Net at a lower retail price than DirecTV, he said.

Most of the pictures on HD Net Movies are library product, which the network buys from Warner Bros., Paramount, Buena Vista, Sony/Columbia, MGM, New Line, Lions Gate and Artisan.

The programming of the other network, HD Net, ranges all over the lot, from sitcoms to music shows to interview programs. But HD Net promotes the sports it transmits in high def, including National Hockey League games, Major League Soccer games, horse races, auto races, college football and college basketball.

Insight subscribers in Louisville, Ky.; Evansville, Ind.; and Peoria, Ill., already have access to the high-def tier. Insight’s hope is that the price of HD TV sets continues to fall well below $1,000 and drives more customers into the company’s fold, including people who mothball their satellite dishes in favor of a better high-def deal with their local cable company.