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Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Europe's first HDTV satellite channel

As of January 1 Euro1080 is the first European satellite channel to broadcast in the high definition TV (HDTV) format, which has roughly double the number of vertical lines and horizontal lines of traditional analog television.

The satellite channel, set up by Belgian production company Alfacam, will distribute language-independent content, including sports, music, shows and cultural events, with best quality surround-sound.

The first programme aired last week was the New Year's Concert from Vienna. Other highlights this year will be the European Championship Soccer in Portugal, a summary of the Olympics and the Eurovision Song Contest.

The channel's name refers to the number of lines on the TV screen: 1920 pixels x 1080 lines at 50 hertz interlaced. Anyone with a 60cm satellite antenna will be able to receive the signal, but you need an additional set-top box the watch the content. The HDTV signal is an 18Mbps stream, but mixed with other services it will occupy at least 40Mbps in a single 7Mhz channel.

Euro1080 currently offers two channels: a Main Channel, with four hours of material every day, and an Event Channel that distributes live or delayed live programs to ‘event cinemas’ - theatres equipped with electronic projection and 5.1 surround sound systems.

There are already High Definition Television (HDTV) broadcast channels in Asia (all Japanese TV channels, Korean Broadcasting, CCTV China), Australia and in North and South America (such as HD net, TV Azteca-Mexico, TV Globo-Brasil), but Europe is lagging behind. In the 80s Europe tried to adopt the D2 Mac standard, but that failed because the standard was analog and not digital.

This time around, consumer electronic giants Panasonic, Thomson and Pioneer have put money in the satellite project as they hope to sell more widescreen (plasma) screens.

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