ITV launches first HD channel

Service to be carried on BSkyB, Virgin, Freeview

LONDON — U.K. terrestrial giant ITV is to finally bow an HD channel on local payboxes BSkyB and Virgin Media following lengthy negotiations.

This means that somewhat belatedly the broadcaster’s flagship web, ITV1, will finally be available in high definition from April 2.

ITV1 HD is also being distributed on digital terrestrial platform Freeview, soon to launch its own HD service.

Said Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television, channels and online: “All of our output will benefit from the stunning picture quality that high-definition offers, whether it’s ITV’s original drama, landmark factual shows, entertainment events or our live football.”

The move enables local soccer fans to watch most of this summer’s much-anticipated World Cup in HD, either on the BBC’s HD channel or via the new ITV1 HD.

The two U.K. free-to-air broadcasters have joint rights to the global soccer contest.

In Blighty, HD has been driven by paybox BSkyB, which on Friday announced high-definition launches for Hallmark and Sky Sports 4.

This gives the satcaster more than 40 HD channels. The aim is to reach 50 by the end of the year.

For rival U.K. paybox Virgin Media, the addition of the ITV1 HD channel represents the fifth HD channel the firm has bowed this year.