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Business

Symbolic Start for HDTV in Germany

As the first major TV channel group in Europe, Germany's ProSiebenSat.1 has begun transmitting its programs in the new high definition TV (HDTV) format. However, few will already able to watch it.

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HDTV improves the quality of the picture, not the content

Speaking at the official launch of the new form of transmission in Munich, ProSiebenSat.1 officials on Wednesday hailed the event as a sign of Germany's innovative TV market.

A day earlier, a small university science channel called HD Hit became the first German HDTV channel available. Major competitors such as BSkyB in Britain, CanalSat in France and Sky Italia in Italy won't start HDTV broadcasts until the soccer World Cup in 2006.

German viewers will now be able to receive the channel group's programs both in the old and the HDTV format, which supposedly produces images that are up to five times sharper than the old ones.

Missi n g hardware

But calling the launch a symbolic one, ProSiebenSat.1 admitted that few people would actually be able to benefit from the new format in the near future as only a minute number of viewers already have the necessary equipment -- special television sets as well as digital decoders -- to do so.

IFA-Neuheit 2005 HP-P5031 50 HDTV Plasma Monitor Samsung Pressefoto

HDTV monitors cost at least 1,500 euros ($1,820) in Germany

Company officials said, however, they knew it would take time for the system to become profitable.

"We'll need three to five years," ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Guillaume de Posch told Reuters news service, adding that the group is investing three million euros ($3.6 million) in developing the new broadcasting format. De Posch also said that he hoped the launch would put pressure on hardware producers to speed up their output.

On Dec. 3, pay-TV channel Premiere will start its HDTV offering after postponing the launch because digital decoders were not available quickly enough.

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