Star Choice opens up 400 channel universe

4/3/2003

Calgary, - Star Choice has announced a major upgrade in the channels, services and programming it will offer its customers over the next 12 months. The changes include new audio/video channels, more HDTV programming, an integrated HDTV receiver and digital video recorder.

"We believe these enhancements will provide Star Choice customers with the best entertainment service in the country," said Brad Shaw, Star Choice's Senior Vice President, Operations. "Our customers will be
able to choose from over 400 channels across two satellites on the most advanced digital services platform in the business."

The advancements will be rolled out steadily over the next 12 months.

Some of the new channels include out-of-market broadcasters, such as CBC-CBOT Ottawa, which will be added in May. "Until then, Star Choice will also carry any Ottawa Senators playoff hockey games not carried on our other CBC channels. These games will be available to Star Choice customers for free on channel 238," says the company's press release. With competitor Bell ExpressVu still not offering CBC's Ottawa feed, it could be a key competitive differentiator - especially heading into the National Hockey League playoffs, where the Senators have been near or at the top of the standings all season - depending on how the games are scheduled in relation to other Canadian NHL teams which make the playoffs.

Other new channels will include English and French local channels, specialty channels, audio services, and HD channels. For instance, Star Choice will launch four additional local channels by the end of April. These include CBC-CKSA Lloydminster, CTV-CITL Lloydminster, CBC-CFTK, Terrace Kitimat and CBC-CJDC Dawson Creek. These four services will only be available to customers in those local areas.

As for new specialties, Discovery Wings, which focuses on all things airborne, launches May 1. Star Choice customers will get a free three-month preview, after which it becomes part of Star Choice's Smart Stuff bundle. Many more channels will be introduced this summer, in September, and early next year, says the company.

At least four - and possibly six - new HDTV channels will launch by September, and will be added to its current two. More HDTV channels and programming could be launched early next year, depending on the availability of high-quality HDTV content, says Star Choice.

The company will introduce the Motorola DSR 500 decoder this summer as well. This advanced HDTV receiver has an enhanced onscreen program guide with interactive features.

Then, in Q1 2004, Star Choice will release the Motorola DSR 530. This dual tuner receiver will allow Star Choice customers to simultaneously watch and digitally record programming, even HDTV content. It also has an enhanced onscreen program guide with interactive features.

More immediately, customers will notice an improved interactive program guide will be downloaded to Star Choice's well over one million receivers in service during April.

The features of the new guide include a return of the mini-guide with picture-over-guide capability, enhanced parental controls, and simplified navigation.

The company will release further information on its new channels, services and receivers, as the year progresses, it says.

"We believe these enhancements will provide Star Choice customers with the best entertainment service in the country," said Brad Shaw, Star Choice's senior vice-president, operations. "Our customers will be able to choose from over 400 channels across two satellites on the most advanced digital services platform in the business."

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