Sydney— Australia’s Nine Network will launch its first HD channel in March 2008, following the Dec. 16 debut of Ten-HD and Seven HD, which bowed in October. In contrast to Ten and Seven, which have hyped their HD services as exciting new entertainment options which complement their main channel, Nine CEO David Gyngell has played down the new medium and is yet to reveal any programming details. While he said Nine will make a “substantial” investment in the new channel, Gyngell, the former head of Granada in the US, said at the launch of Nine’s 2008 season, “Based on my experience in the US and internationally, I can tell you that HD is viewed over there as a renowned picture enhancer, not a whole new channel.” Taking a dig at his terrestrial rivals, Gyngell continued, “Local competitors would have you think it’s a must-have, this minute, in this market. But let’s be frank, it’s a signal; not a channel. The picture quality is significantly enhanced on HD but it is simply a migration of the existing channel. “Content is what excites me and this should be the focus for Standard Definition because it’s all about substance and ultimately viewers just want the best programs.” Unveiled on Nov. 30, Ten-HD’s schedule offers a lot of programming distinct from its main channel, including documentaries, movies, science fiction, and, at 10.30 pm, drama series such The Shield, Veronica Mars and Over There. It will offer time-shifted viewing such as News at Five and Australia’s No.1 daytime show, The Bold and the Beautiful. On Breakaway Thursday from 3 pm, it will screen prime time sci-fi shows Smallville, Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood and The 4400, as well as docs and movies. Stripped in the 3-5 pm Monday to Friday factual strand will be titles such as Ocean Adventures, Edge of Existence, Amazing Planet, Monster Crocs and The Wolfman. Said Ten’s Chief Programming Officer David Mott: “We are incredibly proud to introduce a new era of choice for free TV viewers with the highest possible picture and sound quality. And even better, consumers won’t have to keep paying for the privilege of enjoying TEN-HD. Saturday 16 December marks the beginning of a journey, and we will progressively increase TEN-HD’s unique content in the months ahead.”