Charter is the latest video service provider to join the announcement parade for HD channel growth. Charter says they are aiming to offer at least 40 HD channels by year end 2008, doubling their current HD capacity. Charter is also joining some of its cable MSO brethren by utilizing switched digital video technology to achieve their 40 channel HD goal. But will 40 HD channels by the end of 2008 be enough?
With DirecTV and DISH both claiming over 70 HD channels now, and Verizon FiOS announcing a goal of 150 HD feeds by year end 2008, you have to wonder if 40 will be enough. The jury is still out on exactly what competitive advantage HD brings. There are passionate arguments that suggest HD is a defining competitive differentiator, but HDTV penetration in the U.S. is still below 25%. Perhaps Doug Ike, vice president of advanced video engineering and applications for Charter is right when he tells Multichannel News, “We’ll stay competitive with our peers.” Perhaps 40 will be enough, especially in Charter’s smaller markets where they compete with small telcoTV providers who have their own HD challenges. HD proponents argue that despite the minority penetration numbers, HD subscribers are high value/margin subscribers, and should be aggressively pursued. The current holiday season will impact this debate. Holiday HDTV sales will be a leading indicator for the growing demand for HD and its competitive implications.
P.S. As I write this post, I’m watching Monday Night Football in HD, and I have to admit, it’s a differentiator for me. It’s one of those services that once you get a taste, you never want to go back!