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Foxtel to offer exclusive HD channels for Olympics

Foxtel has announced its plans for coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics, with a minimum of four dedicated pay-on-demand HD channels available to subscribers.

Foxtel has announced its plans for coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics, with four dedicated pay-on-demand HD channels available to subscribers.

The stone "inukshuk" — the mascot for the upcoming 2010 Winter Games — covered in snow at the Whistler Olympic venue (Credit: Vancouver 2010)

Foxtel subscribers can sign up for both the exclusive TV channels and broadband TV for an "early bird" price of AU$50. This will increase to AU$65 in the new year, and daily "ski pass-like" tickets will also be made available.

The package will include 340 hours of live coverage and 1600 hours of Olympic competition overall. The HD Olympic channels will have simulcasts available to SD subscribers and Austar subscribers will also have access to the broadcasts.

The four channels for the Vancouver Olympics have been named after competition venues. The "Cypress" channel will cover sports such as free style aerials and snowboarding, "Creekside" will cover alpine skiing, ice-hockey and curling, "Whistler" will cover cross country skiing and luge, and the "Vancouver" channel will host the skating events.

Foxtel will have its own studio located in Vancouver which will operate 24 hours a day. The company claims it is the first cable provider in the world to be given exclusive access to Olympics content. Foxtel will not broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies, however, as the rights belong to Channel Nine.

"We may or may not show a medal ceremony, depending on whether there's another competition at the same time, with the exception being for Australian medal winners of course!" said Foxtel CEO Kim Williams.

He added that the coverage would "never, ever interrupt any contest for ads, except where there were 'natural breaks'" and they would "never avoid broadcasting an Australian competing live".

All four dedicated Olympic channels will be available on mobile phones, but pricing is yet to be announced and mobile content is not included in the offers announced today.

In the build-up to the Winter Olympics, Foxtel will begin broadcasting more Canadian content including food shows, documentaries and movies in the months before the Games, which run from 12 February to 28 February.

Foxtel's director of sport and Olympic Games Peter Campbell said Foxtel sees its 2010 Winter Olympics coverage as a trial run for the 2012 London Olympics, when the company plans to double its offering to eight high-definition channels.

When questioned further, he said there may be some new HD sports channels coming in October, but declined to give any details.