Germany's third-largest cable TV operator Kabel BW has decided to follow in the footsteps of SES Astra's HD+ platform by charging its customers additional fees for the reception of the high-definition versions of commercial free-to-air channels.

Viewers can from now on sign up for the encypted package "MeinTV HD Plus" for €3.90 per month which contains RTL HD, VOX HD, RTL II HD and Sport1 HD.

Customers already subscribing to pay-TV bouquet "MeinTV HD" (€9,90/month) will get the new HD channels without additional charge. Access will automatically be granted.

Like at HD+, the HD versions of the commercial channels on Kabel BW's cable network will be subject to technical restrictions limiting recording, copying and archiving on PVRs. This was confirmed by a Kabel BW spokeswoman to Rapid TV News. At the same time she stressed that Kabel BW will continue to carry the channels' digital SD versions without encryption.

Kabel BW recently announced that it has reached an agreement with RTL group regarding cable carriage of their HD channels. With the new additions, the cable company's free-TV and pay-TV HD line-up will increase to 33 channels.

"In the interest of our customers an agreement with the commercial broadcast groups regarding distribution of their HD channels is very important," Kabel BW CEO Harald Rösch said in Heidelberg. "With the new HD package we mirror the channels' established business model on satellite on our cable network."