SINGAPORE: High-definition TV on 2 StarHub channels now showing

Singapore is first in Southeast Asia to launch HDTV as rival broadcasters look into HD format

Straits Times
Friday, January 19, 2007

By Tham Yuen-C

Super clear images hit television screens from today as StarHub launches its high-definition television (HDTV) service.

So far, just two channels -- Discovery HD and National Geographic Channel HD -- have been made available in HDTV format, which is said to be four times sharper than regular television. Viewers need an HDTV set to enjoy the better pictures.

For viewers, this makes the difference between seeing just the stripes on a tiger and seeing the texture of its fur.

Although the service has begun with only two channels, StarHub's head of integrated products and marketing Mike Reynolds said the company is looking to offer more high-definition (HD) content, especially sports channels and programmes.

The launch makes Singapore the first country in South-east Asia to launch HD programming commercially.

Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang, called it a "significant milestone for the media industry in Singapore."

In the TV world, the introduction of HD broadcasting along with the arrival of flat screen TV sets is touted as the biggest breakthrough since black and white made way for colour.

"There are huge benefits," said Mr Bryan Ma, associate director at research firm IDC. "Picture quality is astounding, and it's particularly visible when you're watching sports."

HD broadcasts also offer superior sound quality.

"It offers a window to the actual place that is shown on screen," said Mr Ward Platt, group managing director of National Geographic Channel in Asia.

Since June last year, rival broadcasters here have extended their competition to the HD arena. StarHub and MediaCorp both started HDTV trials.

On Wednesday, new player M2B announced plans to broadcast up to 15 per cent of its 55 broadband TV channels in the HD format.

SingTel has also indicated it would jump into the fray with its own HD offerings after it was awarded a licence to start television services over the Internet earlier this week.

At the StarHub launch last night, Dr Lee said: "These developments...will contribute towards Singapore's vision of a vibrant and thriving media hub."

In fact, countries such as the United States, South Korea and China have been experimenting with HD broadcasts since the mid-1990s.

The IDC's Mr Ma said StarHub's HDTV launch was "a good move, but don't expect overnight results because there are still challenges. It all boils down to the content in the end."

To receive the StarHub HD channels, subscribers have to buy an HD set-top box for $299.25, and must also have an HD television set.

They will also need to subscribe to the two HD channels for $15.75 a month.

Currently, digital cable subscribers pay $4.20 a month to rent the regular set-top box.