After dumping its HD programming loop in December, PBS is taking the plunge this week with PBS HD, a new service transmitted digitally by 50 PBS stations. That number is expected to grow steadily this year as the remaining 196 PBS stations that broadcast digital signals sign licensing agreements with the net.
"Of the digital service initiatives we've offered, like PBS Kids and PBS U, this one has had the most successful launch," says network spokesman Kevin Dando.
Although PBS is billing it as the first broadcast service to have 24/7 HD and widescreen content, the majority of stations carrying it are expected to cut away to multicasts throughout the day. The new service will initially offer 16 hours of new HD or widescreen content to viewers each month. PBS will add more hours as it renegotiates deals with producers wanting HD masters.
"We'll have new content cycling in," adds Dando. "When it is either HD or widescreen, it'll be part of the cycle."
Programs scheduled for March include Nova, the "Concert for George," Great Performances, and Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks. Jakers!
is the first HD children's program to be available entirely in HD.