MTV launches global HD service

Channel will launch Sept. 15

LONDON — MTV’s new global high-definition service, MTV Networks HD, will bow Sept. 15 with six European countries taking the web.

The 24-hour channel, which includes a Nickelodeon-branded block, is to launch in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland and Sweden.

Owners Viacom plans to roll out the English-language web, which will be up-linked using a single feed from Warsaw, in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and the U.K. later in the year.

Additionally, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela also will have the HD web, which will broadcast in Dolby 5.1 surround sound, by the close of 2008.

Territories in Asia are expected to follow later, although at this stage there is no specific date.

MTV Networks Intl. prexy Bob Bakish said: “In Europe, there are about 100 million pay TV households of which 4.4 million have HD, so we are in the early days of HD. Obviously, we think those numbers will grow.”

“MTV Networks HD is an international first that will help operators reinforce the value of pay TV. There is great consumer interest in this and the talent are very interested in too.

“In this multi-platform world it is more important than ever to have HD.”

The web, which follows the 2006 launch of MTV’s HD channel in the U.S., will screen HD versions of MTV staples such as “Unplugged” and “Storytellers,” plus concerts and the Europe Music Awards filmed in HD.

There will also be some original fare, which will be produced in Argentina and the U.K.

The station’s idents and other on-screen furniture have been produced in Milan.

The hope is that MTV Networks HD will appeal to a broad demographic, embracing children, the youth market and adult auds.

“Doing it this way is much more cost effective and allows us to get the product out there in the market much sooner,” explained Bakish.

Ultimately, however, the aim is to provide HD versions of MTV’s various branded channels.