Although satellite broadcaster Sky scored an early goal with the widely-publicised announcement that it will be transmitting all of the BBC's World Cup matches in high-definition (HEXUS.headline), its HD rival, cable-operator Telewest, has banged three in the net, having signed up to show in HD all of ITV's matches - on top of those from the BBC - and on-demand high-def programmes from Channel 4.
It remains to be seen whether Sky will end up carrying the ITV games as well - we find it almost impossible to believe that it would allow Telewest to get yet another one over it so early in the life of UK high-definition broadcasting, having already seen its rival go live first with HD.
However, Telewest is claiming that only its customers, plus a small group of terrestrial-HD triallists, will have access to all the games in high definition. Kick off is on June 9 when the hosts, Germany, take on Costa Rica – a game being shown on BBC.
Yet, it could be that Telewest now has the financial clout to outbid Murdoch's outfit, having merged in March with NTL to form a giant new company, NTL Incorporated. This, it's claimed, is the UK's biggest provider of triple-play services - telephone, broadband and digital TV.
However, the two cable networks have not yet been integrated fully, so the initial HD offering from the group is only available in Telewest areas. These encompass - but aren't necessarily providing services to - five million homes. Folk living in the seven million homes potentially served by NTL will have to wait. Hopefully, though, we'll be soon be able to tell you for how long - we've set up an interview with NTL to talk about its HD plans and other questions raised in the HEXUS.community.
The company is understandably buoyant. Philip Snalune, managing director of consumer products, NTL /Telewest, said, "Telewest customers with TVDrive will be able to watch every World Cup game in stunning high definition and, for those who aren't gripped by England's exploits, we're also lining up a feast of alternative HD entertainment. Since we launched Britain's first HDTV service, thousands of football fans have invested in HD ready screens in anticipation of the World Cup and we're flying in additional TVDrives [the company's PVR boxes] to satisfy demand."
The alternatives the company will be offering include, from the BBC, Wimbledon tennis, Planet Earth, Dickens' Bleak House, a new Robin Hood drama and Later with Jools Holland. From ITV there will be documentaries, among them a new wildlife series, Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Adventures; films, including All Quiet on the Western Front and the Big Sleep, and dramas such as Agatha Christie's Poirot specials, Death on the Nile and Murder in Mesopotamia.
In addition, and this is another little coup, there is on-demand high-def programming from Channel 4 that gets saved directly onto the TVDrive's hard disk. Promised programmes include episodes from seasons one and two of the highly-popular Lost and Desperate Housewives. These will be in addition to the BBC Worldwide high-def programmes already available through via Telewest's TV-on-demand service, such as The Blue Planet, Super Volcano and Pride.
To access HD content from Telewest, users need a TVDrive system - which also let's you record two programmes while watching a third - and an HD ready TV set. The TVDrive adds £10 or £15 to the monthly subscription package, depending on which bundle of channels you take. It's a tenner for those with the more expensive Supreme TV bundle and £15 for subscribers to the lower-priced Essential or Starter TV packages.
Sound interesting? Let us hear your thoughts in the HEXUS.community - and do also keep an eye on that NTL interview thread.
Telewest - TVdrive home page
Telewest - Supreme TV
Telewest - Essential
Telewest - Starter TV
BBC HD - Home page
ITV HD - Home page
Channel 4 HD - Home page