4 X 5.1 = Wow!

The list of North American channels offering Dolby Digital 5.1 sound has just grown by four. In a press release dated July 19, Dolby Laboratories announced that City HD, Encore HD, TNT in HD, and The WB will all offer programming in Dolby Digital 5.1. This brings the total number of networks featuring the surround format to the mid-20s (and the number of individual channels to somewhere in the 80s—Dolby is not being terribly specific about the precise numbers).

City HD, Chum Television's HD channel, now offers over the air (OTA) Dolby Digital 5.1. In 2003, City HD became Canada's first OTA HD provider, and it has now announced that it will feature 5.1 sound for programming such as the Much Music Awards.

Encore HD is the high-definition flagship of the Starz Encore Group LLC (Starz), and offers first-run and recent movies in uncut, commercial-free presentations. STARZ! was the first premium movie channel to offer Dolby Digital 5.1 in standard-definition premium movie channel viewers, and has steadily ramped up its Dolby Digital 5.1 offerings. STARZ! HD and Encore HD now feature Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and high-definition video for their feature offerings such as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Freddy vs Jason, John Q, and The Bourne Identity.

TNT in HD went OTA in HD and DD5.1 earlier this year, in May. It will present all of its programs and commercials in 5.1 surround sound. Dan Darling, Turner's senior vice president of technology and production operations said, "Our goal is to provide TNT in HD viewers with high-quality, three-dimensional . . . sound experience that complements our realistic, high-def visual experience."

The WB announced that it will broadcast "certain theatrical titles" in DD5.1 by autumn 2004.