The BBC will launch five additional HD channels on Tuesday. BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, BBC News HD, CBeebies HD and CBBC HD will be available on Freeview HD, Freesat HD, YouView, Sky HD and Virgin Media.
Tony Hall, BBC director-general, said: “I am delighted that we’re able to launch our new HD channels in time for Christmas, when families gather together to enjoy some of the best TV from the BBC. This year, people will be able to watch even more of our programmes in brilliant quality.”
All five new HD channels will broadcast the same programmes as their standard definition equivalents in HD.
The launch brings the total number of BBC HD channels to seven. All are broadcast free-to-air.
When the channels were initially announced in July it was anticipated they would launch “by early 2014”. Alix Pryde, director, BBC distribution paid tribute to the speed at which the project had been delivered. “It’s said that launching a channel takes at least 6 months. We will have managed to launch five channels in five months. So I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the brilliant team of dedicated professionals, across the BBC, our suppliers and our platform partners, who have been pulling out all the stops to achieve this for our audiences”.
For the first time the BBC will use the HD switching on the Sky platform that means BBC Three and BBC Four will be on 115 and 116 respectively in SD or HD versions, according to the subscription held.
“One goal in our approach to distributing our channels is to put the ‘best’ version of a channel first in the EPG, where the ‘best’ version has the right availability of nations or regional content, followed by the highest picture quality,” explained Pryde.
BBC News will deploy the swapping after Sky’s regular Christmas channel freeze to avoid non-essential technical work that could impact the availability of the existing SD BBC News channel whilst it is covering a major news story.
In 2014 similar swapping will be introduced on the free-to-air Freesat platform.
On Freeview/YouView BBC Three HD and CBBC HD will use the single vacant slot within the BBC-run capacity (on Multiplex B), which has 98.5% coverage of UK homes. Meanwhile, BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD will use new HD capacity, which will cover part of the UK and grow in coverage over time.
The BBC will also benefit from improved channel numbers for BBC Alba, BBC Two and BBC Parliament.