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In response to the FCC's call to grow the HDTV and digital television markets, Discovery Communications is stepping up to the plate with a new 24-hour, ad-supported HDTV channel.

The channel, Discovery HD Theater, will feature programming categories that have been tied to the company's networks for years, including nature, history, world cultures, science, education and travel. At yesterday's launch, the channel had more than 110 hours of HDTV programming. The company intends to triple its library by the end of 2003.

Programs that run less than 30 minutes will have no commercial breaks, but they will be preceded and followed by commercial messages from Discovery HD's sponsors. Programs that run longer than 30 minutes will have intermissions. The timing of the launch is tied to the company's 17th anniversary.

Discovery HD Theater made its debut yesterday on EchoStar Communications Corp.'s nationwide DISH Network satellite TV service, AT&T Broadband's Greater Chicago market and in various Charter Communications Inc. and Cox Communications Inc. markets.

The channel will be beamed via satellite via Satcom 4, transponder 14, and the signal will be delivered in 1080i resolution and will utilize 3 MHz of spectrum.

Discovery is promoting the channel in its Discovery Channel Stores and through a marketing agreement with EchoStar.

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