Astro promises more "B.yond" HD
Rose Major

Malaysia’s Astro TV launched its high-definition offering on Friday, December 11, with five HD channels and the promise of more to come. Subscribers will pay an extra RM20 per month (US$6) for the new “B.yond” service.

Astro is targeting one million homes for the HDTV service in the medium term, with half of that figure expected in the first year to 18 months.

Subscribers wanting to take B.yond will get a new set-top box and smart card, a new outdoor dish and HDMI cable, and a new remote control. Customers returning an old box will have their installation fee waived.

Channels on offer are Astro Supersport HD, HBO HD, National Geographic Channel HD and History HD. ESPN HD will be available from January and the platform will also offer matches from next year’s FIFa World Cup soccer tournament in HD. More channels, including local content, will roll out in 2010.

As well as HDTV, Astro B.yond is offering a new and improved EPG and will in 2010 offer video recording through an external hard drive. Digital video recording, video-on-demand and IPTV connectivity are promised in phases over the next 24 months.

Dato’ Rohana Rozhan, CEO of Astro, said: “At 48 per cent penetration of Malaysian TV homes, we are part of 2.875 million homes. It is a privilege we do not take for granted. At Astro, we are committed to innovation in content, technology and customer experience. We would also like to ensure our customers get the maximum value out of every ringgit they spend with us.”

She continued: “Today approximately 1.2 million of our customers are HD-ready. According to an industry report, 59 per cent of all televisions sold in 1H 2009 are already HD-ready with an uptrend in sales. All data indicate that Astro's introduction of HD service comes at an opportune time and the market is ready for HD content.”