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Not that they weren't pretty excellent already, but some major BBC channels are due to get 1080-line upgrades by early next year. UK viewers will get five new channels in total, with no need for any subscriptions (courtesy of Freeview HD, YouView and Freesat), including BBC News HD, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and CBBC HD (so long as Mr Tumble can fix his make-up). The programming will match the standard-def counterparts and contribute a promised 250 hours of extra HD content per week. There's also talk of broadcasting regional programs and variants in HD, although that proposal still has to be approved by the BBC Trust and could be a bit further off.

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The BBC today announced it will launch five new subscription-free BBC HD channels. The new channels - BBC News HD, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and CBBC HD - will launch by early 2014 and will be offered to all digital television platforms that carry HD channels.*

The new channels will broadcast the same programmes as their standard definition equivalents in HD, giving viewers access to a further 250 hours of HD programmes per week than is currently available from the BBC. The majority of HD programmes from these channels will also be available to watch on demand via BBC iPlayer.

In addition, within the next six months, the BBC will present to the BBC Trust a proposal covering the technical options and timetable to launch English Regional variants of BBC One HD and variants of BBC Two HD for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

These announcements follow the successful launch of BBC One HD in 2010 and, in the past nine months, BBC One Scotland HD, BBC One Wales HD, BBC One Northern Ireland HD and BBC Two HD. Meanwhile, audience demand for HD channels continues to grow. Over 50 per cent of homes in the UK are already HD enabled, with reports estimating that the number of HD homes is expected to grow to reach over 20 million (80 per cent of all UK homes) by 2016 and over 23 million homes (90 per cent of all UK homes) by 2019.

BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, says: "BBC One HD and BBC Two HD have already proved to be highly valued by our audiences and I'm delighted that we're able to follow this with the launch of five new subscription-free BBC HD channels by early 2014. These new channels will allow us to showcase more of our programming at its very best."

Notes to editors

The launch of the five new HD channels was approved by the BBC Trust.

* The five new HD channels will be broadcast on satellite, covering approximately 99 per cent of UK homes from launch. On digital terrestrial television (Freeview HD and YouView), BBC Three HD and CBBC HD will use capacity on the BBC's existing HD multiplex, which has 98.5 per cent coverage of UK homes. BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD will use new HD capacity, which will cover part of the UK and grow in coverage over time. Further information on this new digital terrestrial television capacity can be found in the press releases issued today by Ofcom and Arqiva.The five new HD channels will also be offered to TV platform operators that run their own networks, such as cable TV and IPTV operators.