Even more HDTV from VOOM
The VOOM announcement comes almost three months after rival provider DIRECTV released a statement concerning the planned launch of four new next-generation satellites intended to greatly expand DIRECTV's capability to deliver more local and national high-definition channels (in addition to new interactive and enhanced services as well as standard-definition programming) beginning in the middle of 2005.
The Rainbow DBS folks, however, aren't satisfied with waiting for the new VOOM satellites to achieve Earth orbit. They recently announced the intention to considerably expand VOOM's available channels by March of 2005. VOOM's current offering of 130 full-conus channels will balloon to a whopping 350 full-conus channels; and, more importantly for HDTV owners, the current industry-leading 39 HD channels will jump to more than 70.
According to Tom Dolan, CEO of Rainbow Media Enterprises, "The increase in VOOM's HDTV channels from 39 to more than 70 will allow us to continue to provide more high-definition video services than any other cable or satellite provider. Our plan is to simultaneously add nearly 200 standard definition channels."
Integral to VOOM's expansion plans is the move to MPEG-4 transmissions. "Today's announcement is a step forward in our plans to advance VOOM to MPEG-4 later in 2005. All VOOM customers have been provided with set-top boxes capable of receiving the MPEG-4 signal and we remain committed to offering more than 400 full continental US channels before the end of 2005," explained Dolan.
VOOM recently expanded their standard-definition channel lineup, adding five cable lifestyle channels from Scripps Networks. The new additions include Home & Garden Television (HGTV), GAC-Great American Country, DIY-Do It Yourself Network, FINE LIVING, and Food Network. (VOOM subscribing "Iron Chef" fans rejoice!)
In other news, Cablevision has once again delayed the spinoff of VOOM and the cable channels AMC, IFC, and WE: Women's Entertainment (all parts of the Rainbow Media Enterprises business unit). At last count, VOOM had approximately 26,000 subscribers compared to 12.1 million for DIRECTV and 10.5 million for EchoStar's Dish Network. A more valid comparison, however, would be the number of HD-receiver-equipped Dish Network and DIRECTV subscribers to VOOM's subscriber count. (All of VOOM's subscribers use an HD satellite receiver.) Individual subscriber statistics are not readily available.
With such low subscriber numbers, it's easy to see why the financial analysts are pessimistic about VOOM; and VOOM subscribers are still eagerly awaiting a receiver with a built-in HD PVR. But the HD picture quality and the HD content quantity are so good, we think VOOM is just the kind of thing HDTVs were made for.