LONDON — Euro1080, the first channel that broadcasts exclusively in high definition throughout Europe, launched Thursday with the broadcast of the New Year’s concert of the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra.
Belgian company Alfacam operates the channel. While the resolution of its images is five times higher than the current European standard, high picture quality may not be enough to entice consumers to purchase an HD screen or the required high-definition receiver, which costs $755.
The first HDTV experiment in Europe occurred in the late 1980s. Called D2-Mac, it failed to capture an audience and the experiment burnt huge sums of public money. As a result, Europe is still virgin territory for HDTV manufacturers, whereas 2.5 million HD sets will be sold in 2003, according to the American Consumer Electronics Assn.To convert Europeans to HDTV, Alfacam is banking on event programming such as sports, music and cultural events. The main channel will be broadcasting four hours of free programming per day via satellite, not only to households but also small venues such as sports bars, hotel chains and airports. Alfacam will also be running a premium content event channel that will broadcast to so-called event cinemas, which are equipped with electronic projectors and 5.1 surround sound systems.
With events such as broadcasts from this year’s European soccer championships and the Olympic Games in Athens, Alfacam hopes to lure folks into the cinemas and show them how valuable HDTV could be in their own homes.
Alfacam expects cinema owners to pay for the installation of the projectors and invest in local marketing. According to the company, installation costs amount to $80,000; it hopes to reach a base of 150 theaters by mid-2004.