The Seven Network will launch a High Definition version of its primary channel early next year in time for the Australian Open Tennis.
After years of criticism from frustrated sports fans, Seven will use the Summer non-ratings period to make the switch to HD. Sources within Seven have told this website the network was ‘rushing’ to have everything in place in time for the Tennis event.
This latest news comes after DeciderTV last month revealed exclusively that Seven had commenced planning the HD upgrade.
A senior Seven spokesperson last night declined to confirm or deny the HD upgrade, telling this website, “Watch this Space.”
Seven is gearing up for its biggest ever coverage of the Australian Open, with matches to be broadcast on 7HD, 7TWO and 7Mate. Viewers will also be able to watch live action or catch-up on previous games from up to 16 courts streamed live on mobile, tablet and PC via the 7Tennis app and website.
DeciderTV understands Seven is also currently in negotiations with studios in the UK and US to secure content for a new multi-channel service designed to target a female 18-54 audience. Seven is desperate to compete directly with the new 9Life channel, which has already built a healthy audience share in its first few weeks on-air.
To facilitate the change Seven's current HD channel 7Mate will convert to SD.
The new 7HD channel will be broadcast in MPEG4 similar to the new Nine Network HD channel meaning some viewers with older digital TV equipment will be unable to receive the channel. Seven will continue to broadcast an SD version of its main channel to ensure all viewers maintain access.
In preparation for the January HD launch, Seven has commenced broadcasting a placeholder logo on ch76 with the message “new channel coming soon”. The EFTM website has reported this test channel is currently broadcasting in MPEG 4 and using 1.4 mbps of spectrum.
Decider TV understands Foxtel will provide the 7HD channel to cable customers, but it will not be included in the satellite platform.
At this stage it appears unlikely Seven’s regional affiliate Prime Television will offer the 7HD channel at launch, the regional broadcaster will need to perform considerable upgrades to its broadcast network before it would be capable of providing the HD signal in all markets.