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High-Def Heaven

Brian Roberts definitely has the hots for high-definition TV (HDTV).

Indeed, Roberts, head honcho at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), and his top lieutenants spent much of their time on the company's earnings call Thursday promoting the MSO's embrace of HD. They noted that Comcast, which signed up a record 613,000 digital cable subscribers in the fourth quarter, also added a whopping 531,000 HD customers over the same period. They also noted that for the entire year, the MSO picked up 1.5 million new subscribers to its HD and/or digital video recorder (DVR) services.

Thanks to gains like these, Comcast officials boast that more than one third of their 12.7 million digital video customers, or at least 4.3 million subscribers, now have HD set-tops in their homes. In other words, the company already has more high-def video subscribers than most cable operators have any kind of subscribers.

But this is just the beginning. Roberts and crew outlined plans for Comcast to markedly boost its lineup of HD video-on-demand (VOD) offerings. Comcast execs see 100 or more HD VOD movies as cable's counterweight to the 100 or more linear HD channels that DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) plans to offer by the end of the year.

"We think movies on demand in high-def is a big idea," Roberts said. "I think we saw 4 million orders or so in the last couple months of the year just coming from the high-def universe who are subscribing to high-def movies. We would rather allocate bandwidth to what the customer wants when they want it and give them more."

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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