Germany's third-largest cable operator Kabel BW will shorty commence carriage of the HD channels operated by Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland on its network.

An agreement has now been reached with the commercial broadcast group, the cable company announced in Heidelberg.

Besides the distribution of RTL HD, RTL II HD and VOX HD Kabel BW will also take "catch up TV" service RTL Now onboard which is currently only available on the internet. The portal, on which viewers can watch selected RTL programmes in full-length at a time of of their choice, will be integrated into Kabel BW's video-on-demand (VOD) service.

Kabel BW will be the first of the three large cable operators in Germany to carry the HD channels of one of the country's two large commercial TV groups. So far, only the smaller cable operators Tele Columbus and PrimaCom have offered the channels which are delivered to them through Eutelsat's direct-to-cable platform KabelKiosk.

The conflicts of interest in the negotiations between the broadcasters and the cable companies are thought to be the carriage fees and technical restrictions through which the broadcasters want to, for example, prevent ad-skipping on PVRs to protect their advertising-financed business model. The restrictions are imposed via satellite on SES Astra's HD+ platform and on the networks of Tele Columbus and PrimaCom.

It is currently unclear whether Kabel BW has agreed to take over the set of restrictions. In the past, the company accused the commercial broadcasters of posing "overblown demands regarding signal protectionö for their HD channels.

Kabel BW is the only large cable operator distributing the digital SD versions of the commercial free-to-air channels without encryption, giving viewers total freedom of choice regarding reception devices. The industry now awaits with great interest whether a change of direction will take place with carriage of the HD versions.

It seems, however, that Kabel BW will follow the same path as the other platform operators. Details regarding the product offer and price structure will be announced shortly, a spokeswoman told Rapid TV News. "But you can assume that we will mirror the HD+ model on our cable network to a large extend."