Dish Serves MPEG-4 Bragging Rights
Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) has begun to roll out standard-def and high-def programming in the bandwidth-saving MPEG-4 format, beating DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and cable competitors to the punch. (See Dish Rolls MPEG-4.)
But not all Dish subscribers will have access to it at the get-go. New customers in the eastern half of the United States (see table below for a list of the first 21 markets) who sign up for a Dish high-definition television package will get first crack at it. Dish is supporting the service with MPEG-4 receivers, including one with an on-board digital video recorder (DVR).
Table 1: HD Blackjack
|Tampa, Fla.||Green Bay, Wis.|
|Greensboro, N.C.||Providence, R.I.|
|Greenville, S.C.||Knoxville, Tenn.|
|These 21 markets are the first to gain access to Dish Networks's all-MPEG-4 offer. Dish expects to deliver its all-MPEG-4 service in other markets at a later date. Source: Dish Network|
Dish is using the MPEG-4 strategy to push along other content initiatives, including its recently launched TurboHD service and the introduction of some fare delivered in 1080p resolution. Dish expects to offer as many as 150 national HD channels by year's end, with hopes that it can reverse a second quarter that saw the satellite company lose subscribers for the first time in its history. (See Dish to Serve Up 1080p, New EchoStar Bird Can Fly, Dish Has HD Century Mark in Sight, and Dish Thrown for a Loss .)
Dish claims the launch makes it the "first in the pay-TV industry" to transmit all SD and HD programming under the advanced compression scheme. But that claim could be short-lived, or is at least a dubious one today. DirecTV began delivering all HD programming in MPEG-4 last month, a spokesman said. Because it would require massive set-top switch-outs, DirecTV doesn't have any announced plans to offer SD in MPEG-4. DirecTV, which has 130 "national" HD channels up and will have the capacity for 200 when the DirecTV 12 satellite goes up next year, also expects to offer some movies in 1080p starting later this year.
U.S. cable operators are also expected to offer MPEG-4 programming, but likely at a slower rate, since the vast majority of their digital boxes decode video only in MPEG-2. But, thanks to some new hybrid MPEG-4/MPEG-2 set-tops from the likes of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Pace Micro Technology , some operators are making plans to seed the market by offering MPEG-4-only programming tiers comprised of an expanded menu of linear and on-demand HD content. (See Moto Plants Seeds for MPEG-4 .)
Some of the premium cable programmers are also making the move to MPEG-4. (See Starz Aligns on MPEG-4 , HBO Bets Big on MPEG-4 , and HBO Taps Moto for MPEG-4 Foray.)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News