HDNet Expands Offerings

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has a proven instinct for what sells.

The outspoken entrepreneur made a $1.7 billion fortune selling his Internet company to Yahoo! during the height of the dot-com era. He believes fervently in the commercial viability of high-definition television. His high-def startup HDNet has come a long way from its origins as a round-the-clock provider of coverage of local pool tournaments and Little League baseball games. In addition to major sports coverage, HDNet now offers feature films and original HDTV programming.

Cuban's company has expanded to two channels, HDNet and HDNet Movies, available in some communities through Charter Communication's cable systems. Those two channels may expand to four if HDNet's deal-signing momentum continues. On Thursday, April 24, the company announced an agreement with Sony Pictures Television to deliver more than 250 feature films and a number of TV series in high-definition.

Films in the deal include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mothman Prophecies, Philadelphia, Sleepless in Seattle, Taxi Driver, and Tootsie. Miniseries include Final Descent and First Daughter; drama and comedy series include Bette, Charlie's Angels, and Square Pegs.

Most of the films, and some of the TV shows, were shot on 35mm film, enabling easy transfer to HD video. Cuban has previously signed similar deals with Paramount Domestic Television and Warner Bros. DirecTV reportedly is planning to launch an HDTV channel package that would cost approximately $10 a month, offering ESPN HD, HDNet, HDNet Movies, and The Discovery HD Theater.