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October 7, 2006

UHD Further Developing Its Brand

In his usual high-definition coverage that I've written about before, James Hibberd with TelevisionWeek wrote this week about the plan for Universal High-Definition, the UHD channel, to develop a brand of its own instead of just repurposing content from other sources within Universal.

The further cultivation of UHD branded content includes a stronger emphasis on movies and sports, which Hibberd considers "the two biggest drivers of HD viewership." Instead of using content from the Universal archives as its chief focus, the focus will go to more and more films, including the Back to the Future trilogy, among many other films.

The network originated as Bravo HD+ three years ago, then changing its name to UHD to promote various content from not only USA Network and the Sci-Fi Channel. However, even as the company has developed a stronger emphasis on movies and sports to cultivate an image independent of other NBC Universal programming, it still will air the most popular television series from Universal networks, continuing "the current multimonth window between premieres and HD encores."

Phillip Swann with TV Predictions writes that "Universal HD, which is now available on satellite and some cable systems such as Comcast, has struggled to find its niche in the high-def world." There is some feeling that the rebranding will make a difference, especially as the novelty of HD starts to wear off as the product becomes expanded to casual television viewers and not just lead users.

The effort to rebrand high-definition channels is becoming more commonplace, as with Mark Cuban's HDNet continued development of original programming.

Fans are continuing to debate the meaning of the content on the HD channel, and some are hoping that WWE programming--with its high-rated shows on both USA and Sci Fi--will eventually land on the UHD channel, although WWE itself indicates it will be some time before that happens.

As for now, however, companies are realizing that it takes more than just having high-definition to create a sustained network.

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