TV Azteca holds test on high def

Mexico not expected to move to format until at least 2010

MEXICO CITY — TV Azteca, Mexico’s No. 2 broadcaster, has finally dipped its toe into the high-def waters, a full five years after market leader Televisa.

Early this month, the net quietly performed the HD equivalent of a live dress rehearsal, airing “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” on UHF frequency channel 53. It was the first public broadcast in the high-tech format for Azteca, which has been testing the technology for several years.

Rival Televisa made its HDTV bow in 1999, on channel 48, a frequency it still uses for regular, if limited, high-def broadcasts. Hours on channel 48 are restricted from 7 in the morning until midnight.

Neither net has announced specific plans to switch or complement their normal broadcast schedule with high-def signals.

Analysts say that they don’t expect Mexico to begin moving to the format in any significant manner until at least 2010.

That move won’t be possible, however, until the nets make investments to upgrade production to high-definition capability. Mexico’s poor economy over the past few years, both nets say, has prevented them from doing so, not to mention that the high cost to consumers for a HD receiver — they sell for roughly $1,750 — has been prohibitive.

HDTV has a resolution more than twice as fine as traditional television and requires no cable or satellite feed, only a special high-definition television. In the U.S., there are already full-time channels dedicated to high-def programming, including ESPN HD and Discovery HD.

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