Virgin 'to add' linear HD channels

Virgin Media has announced a plan to add linear high definition channels to its digital cable lineup.

In a presentation to the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Virgin Media chief executive Neil Berkett said the cable operator was "levelling the linear content playing field versus Sky", and pointed to the reacquisition of Sky's basic channels in standard definition channels - "largely funded" through an increase in the licence fees Virgin receives for the carriage of its own bouquet of services on the Sky EPG - as a key step in this process.

Berkett said that a "plan to add linear high definition channels" had been developed but did not elaborate on timescales or precise channels. Virgin's digital cable service currently carries only one linear high definition service, BBC HD; Freesat offers BBC HD and ITV HD, while Sky carries 29 HD services. Virgin does, however, offer a variety of high definition content on demand, which Berkett said consumers are "increasingly demanding".

Speculation that Virgin plans to add further television services to its lineup - of both high definition and standard definition broadcasts - recently increased after a report on the Digital Spy forums suggested that ITV HD was testing on the platform.

Today, a Virgin Media spokesperson told DS: "We are in ongoing discussion with a number of broadcasters with regards to new SD and HD channels and are currently evaluating our HD plans for 2009."