MTV Networks International (MTVNI) is launching an international High Definition service on Sept. 15 in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland and Sweden. The MTV Networks High Definition (MTVNHD) channel will debut at 12 noon (CET) with 30 Seconds To Mars' video "A Beautiful Lie" (Virgin).

"From a consumer perspective, I felt it was important to provide a HD service," MTVNI president Robert Bakish tells Billboard.biz. "Everyone we talk to is excited by the product and it increases the artists' interest in being a part of it [MTVNI programming]."

Live events such as the MTV Europe Music Awards at Liverpool in November will be filmed in high definition and broadcast on MTVNHD. The service will be English-language and run 24 hours a day; it will be operated by MTVNI's Emerging Markets Group from Warsaw.

Bakish says there are costs involved in going HD but explains that the "collaborative model is a way of dealing with that", as there will be one feed for the various territories "at least as a first step". He adds that MTVNI will explore further HD possibilities "as the market grows."

More than 300 hours of bespoke programming has been commissioned over two years, drawing upon its MTV, VH1 Nickelodeon and other MTVNI brands. The Viacom-owned company describes it as the first-ever international HD service dedicated to music and kids' TV.

MTVNHD is set to expand into France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the U.K. by the end of the year and the rest of Latin America including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela by the end of 2009.

"It's a higher level television experience," says Bakish, who adds that the format is well suited to live performances.

"I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics in HD and it was spectacular."

In addition to MTVNI in Warsaw, programming will be produced by other international MTV Networks production units in Southern Europe, the U.K. and Latin America.

Music content will include MTV Unplugged and VH1 Storytellers as well as high profile live music events including the various MTV Awards. A Nickelodeon programming block, broadcasting on Saturday and Sunday mornings, will feature the network's stable of shows. MTVNHD hosts include MTV Latin America's Francisco Ortiz and English newcomer Amy Perfect.

The channel has also acquired HD titles including Eric Clapton's "Crossroads," "Matchbox Twenty -- Live in Atlanta" and "Nickelback Live." It will be supported by a dedicated website (www.mtvnhd.com) with information about the channel and schedules.

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