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Virgin Media adds Sci Fi HD, sets phasers to hi-def

Virgin Media adds another high-definition channel to its collection as the cable company attempts to steal the limelight from Sky

Virgin Media has been hard at work signing new high-definition talent to its V+ service, in a bid to rival Sky's promised 50 HD channels by the end of the year. This week brings the announcement of Sci Fi HD.

Sci Fi HD is the latest channel to join a stable that includes HD offerings from the BBC, ESPN, FX, MTV, National Geographic and the Virgin-exclusive Living HD. Sci Fi HD will be made available to Virgin Media's customers just prior to the channel's rebranding -- to the ghastly SyFy HD -- on 13 April.

The channel, already available to Sky HD customers, will feature favourites such as Legend of the Seeker and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, alongside the UK premieres of Human Target and V.

"Our Sci Fi channel audience tend to be early adopters so they will love the opportunity to watch some of their favourite shows in fantastic high definition," said Laurence Dawkin-Jones, UK managing director of the channel's parent company, Universal Networks International. "The picture quality will really make the most of our new-look channel and the fantastic raft of UK premiere shows we've got coming up."

Virgin Media and Universal want to make the Sci Fi channel's HD content available on-demand, although haven't committed to a date for that. Virgin Media already provides select programmes in high definition through its TV Choice On-Demand archive.

Last week Virgin Media joined Sky in its addition of ITV1 HD, but it was the surprise announcement of an exclusive Film4 HD deal that turned heads -- a deal that's presumably been signed to fight back against Sky's own HD movie offerings. High-definition versions of Eurosport and the Discovery Channel will also be joining the service in the coming months.

Virgin Media's executive director of digital entertainment, Cindy Rose, comments: "The Sci Fi channel is synonymous with the science-fiction genre [really? astonishing!] and premieres many high-profile, first-run series. We are excited to be bringing the channel's programmes to our customers in spectacular HD ahead of its rebrand as I know they will be introducing yet more fantastic shows in the coming months."

Virgin Media is offering its HD channels at no extra charge for 'XL' TV customers, but you'll have to fork out £75 for a V+ HD box and £5 a month for those who are not in the company's top band of customers.