HD Showdown: Who Really Has the Most HD Channels?

It seems that every cable, satellite, and Fios commercial out there claims that their service has “More HD than” the competition. So who is the true HD leader? We researched the full HD lineups for DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon Fios, AT&T U-verse, Comcast Cable, and Time Warner Cable to get to the real truth behind these claims.

Due to the variations by locality its harder to get HD channel lineups from the cable companies. For this comparison we used data from Washington D.C. for Comcast and New York City for Time Warner. Follow the links to lookup the exact channel lineup in your area. Luckily the satellite providers, along with Verizon Fios and AT&T U-Verse have consistent national HD channel availability across all their service areas.

HD Channel Availability (updated Septmeber 2010)
DirecTV DISH Network Verizon Fios AT&T U-verse Comcast Time Warner
Tested Service Area Nationwide Nationwide Nationwide Nationwide Washington D.C. Manhattan, NY
Link to HD Channel Listings DirecTV DISH Network Verizon Fios AT&T U-verse Comcast Time Warner
Total National HD Channels 92 107 120 123 83 113
NATIONAL HD CHANNELS
A&E HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
ABC Family HD Y N Y Y Y Y
ABC Live Well N N Y N N N
AMC HD N Y Y N Y Y
Animal Planet HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
BBC America HD N Y N N N Y
BET HD Y Y N Y Y Y
Big Ten Network HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Biography Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Bravo HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cars.TV N N Y N N N
Cartoon Network Y Y N Y Y Y
CBS College Sports Network HD Y* Y N Y Y Y
Centric HD N Y* N N N N
Cinemax HD East Y* Y* Y* Y* Y* Y*
Cinemax HD West Y* Y* Y* Y* N N
Cinemax More Max HD East N N Y* Y* N Y*
Cinemax More Max HD West N N Y* Y* N N
Cinemax Action Max HD N Y* Y* Y* N Y*
Cinemax Action Max HD West N N N Y* N N
Cinemax Thriller Max HD N N Y* Y* N Y*
Cinemax WMAX HD N N Y* Y* N Y*
Cinemax At Max HD N N Y* Y* N Y*
Cinemax Five Star Max HD N Y* Y* Y* N Y*
Cinemax OuterMax N N Y* Y* N Y*
CMT HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
CNBC HD+ Y Y Y Y Y Y
CNN HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Comedy Central HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Comedy.TV N N Y N N N
Cooking Channel HD N Y N Y N Y
Crime & Investigation HD Y* Y* N Y N Y
Discovery Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Discovery Kids HD N N N Y N Y
DIY HD N Y N Y N Y
Disney Channel HD Y N Y Y Y Y
Disney XD HD Y N Y Y Y Y
E! HD N Y N Y Y Y
Encore HD Y Y* Y* Y* Y Y*
Epix HD N Y* Y N N N
Epix2 HD N Y* N N N N
ES.TV N N Y N N N
ESPN HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
ESPN2 HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
ESPNews HD Y N Y Y Y Y
ESPNU HD Y N Y Y Y Y
EWTN HD N N N N Y Y
Fashion TV HD N Y* N N N N
Food Network HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Fox Business Network HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Fox News Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Fox Soccer Channel HD Y* Y N N N Y
Fox Soccer Plus HD N N N N N Y
Fuel TV HD Y N N N N N
Fuse HD N N Y N Y Y
FX HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
G4 HD N Y N Y Y Y
Golf Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
GolTV HD Y* N N N N Y
Hallmark Channel HD Y Y N N Y Y
Hallmark Movie Channel HD Y* Y Y N Y Y
Halogen HD N N N Y* N N
HBO HD East Y* Y* Y* Y* Y* Y*
HBO HD West Y* Y* Y* Y* N N
HBO 2 HD East Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
HBO 2 HD West N N Y* Y* N N
HBO Comedy HD East N Y* Y* Y* N Y*
HBO Comedy HD West N N Y* Y* N N
HBO Family HD East N Y* Y* Y* N Y*
HBO Family HD West N N Y* Y* N N
HBO Latino HD East N Y* Y* Y* N Y*
HBO Latino HD West N N Y* Y* N N
HBO Signature HD East N Y* Y* Y* N Y*
HBO Signature HD West N N Y* Y* N N
HBO Zone HD East Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
HBO Zone HD West N N Y* Y* N N
HD Theater Y Y* Y Y Y Y
HDNet Y Y Y Y N N
HDNet Movies Y* Y* Y Y* N N
HGTV HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
History HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
History International HD N Y N Y Y Y
HLN HD N Y N Y Y Y
HSN HD N N Y Y Y Y
IndiePlex HD N Y* N N N N
Investigation Discovery HD N Y Y Y Y Y
IFC HD N N Y N Y Y
Lifetime HD Y Y Y Y Y N
Lifetime Movie Network HD N Y Y Y Y Y
LOGO HD N Y* N N N N
MavTV HD N Y* Y N N Y*
MGM Channel HD Y* Y* Y Y* Y Y*
MLB Network HD N N Y N Y Y
msnbc HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
MTV HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
MyDestination.TV N N Y N N
n3D Y N N N N
National Geographic Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Nat Geo Wild HD N Y Y N N Y
NBA TV HD Y Y Y N Y Y
NFL Network HD Y Y Y Y Y N
NFL RedZone HD N N Y Y* Y N
NHL Network HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Nick HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Outdoor Channel HD N N Y Y Y Y
Palladia HD Y* Y* Y Y* Y Y
Pets.TV N N Y N N N
Planet Green HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
QVC HD N N Y Y Y N
Recipe.TV N N Y N N N
RetroPlex HD N Y* N N N N
Science Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
SHORTS HD N Y* N Y* N N
Showtime HD East Y* Y* Y* Y* Y* Y*
Showtime HD West Y* N Y* Y* N N
Showtime 2 HD East Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
Showtime 2 HD West N N Y* Y* N N
Showtime Beyond HD Y* Y* N N N Y*
Showtime Extreme HD East Y* N Y* Y* N Y*
Showtime Extreme HD West N N Y* Y* N N
Showtime Next HD Y* N N N N Y*
Showtime Showcase HD East Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
Showtime Showcase HD West N N Y* Y* N N
Showtime Women HD Y* N N N N Y*
Smithsonian Channel HD Y* N Y Y* N Y*
Speed HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Sportsman Channel HD N Y N N N N
Spike HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Starz HD East Y* Y* Y Y* Y* Y*
Starz HD West Y* Y* N Y* N N
Starz Comedy HD Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
Starz Edge HD Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
Starz Kids & Family HD Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
Starz Cinema HD Y* N N N N N
Starz in Black HD Y* N N N N N
Style HD N Y N Y Y Y
Sundance Channel N Y* N N N N
Syfy HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
TBN HD N N N Y Y N
TBS HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Tennis Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Telefutura HD Y Y Y N Y Y
The 101 Network HD Y N N N N N
The Movie Channel HD Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
The Movie Channel West HD N N N Y* N N
The Movie Channel Xtra HD Y* Y* Y* Y* N Y*
The Movie Channel Xtra West HD N N N Y* N N
TLC HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
TNT HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Travel Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
truTV HD N Y N Y Y N
Turner Classic Movies HD N Y N Y Y Y
TV One HD N N N Y Y Y
Universal HD Y* Y* Y Y* Y Y
Univision HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
USA Network HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Versus HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
VH1 HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
WE tv HD N N Y N Y Y
Wealth TV HD N N Y Y N N
Weather Channel HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
WGN America HD Y Y Y Y Y N
World Fishing Network HD N Y* Y Y* N N
YES HD Y N Y Y N Y
LOCAL HD CHANNELS1
ABC HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
CBS HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
CW HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
FOX HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
ION HD N N Y N ? Y
My TV HD Y N Y Y Y Y
NBC HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
PBS HD N N Y Y Y Y
Y = Channel available in the tested service area.Y* = Channel available in the tested service area, but requires additional programming costs.N = Channel not available in the tested service area.

? = Channel not available in tested service area, but may be available in other service areas.

1Local channel availability varies. Check with your local provider for details.

Who’s Winning

According to our tallies AT&T U-verse actually has the most national HD channels with Verizon Fios a close second. When we first made this comparison back in 2008 the cable companies were lagging way behind. Today, however, its clear the race is much closer.

Of course Verizon did make a claim for 150 HD channels in 2008, which they didn’t exactly reach. However they have been at the forefront of the HD race, and they are the only provider that does not compress the HD feed.

Almost every week, some provider is adding HD channels, so the results may change from month to month. We’ll do our best to keep the chart updated (and we’d appreciate your help too if you see something that’s not accurate).

Counting Channels

In our comparison we used the number of national high definition channels. The local channels and RSN channels make it a little tricky to compare providers. ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC local affiliates are available in HD from most providers in most areas. That should be expected. Sometimes additional local channels will be available in HD.

RSN’s (Regional Sports Networks) are another story. Most fiber and cable providers have no more than a few RSN channels available in HD. They’re intended to provide coverage of local sports teams. That’s why there so many different channels. Satellite providers, on the other hand, supply many RSN’s to everyone, and they count them as individual HD channels. That’s how DirecTV can claim a much higher number of HD channels. The problem is that most of the extra channels will never have any unique programming. For one, most of the HD RSN’s show HD content only, which may prevent certain programs and/or games from showing. Secondly, most games that are not local to your area will be blacked out.

Regarding premium content, some providers like Verizon Fios are able to broadcast both the east and west feeds on separate channels, i.e. HBO, Showtime, etc. These are separate channels and count as such, however most of the time, the programming on the west channel is exactly the same, just 3 hours behind.

More recently, some providers use Video on Demand channels in their HD channel counts. We excluded these types of channels for a fair comparison.

HD on Demand

All of the providers compared here also provide HD programming on Demand. In general the cable and fiber providers offer much more HD content on demand than the satellite providers. This is due to the technical bandwidth limitation of satellite. This is how some cable companies can claim more high definition choices that satellite. In fact, Comcast, advertises that they have more HD choices than satellite. They trying to remove the emphasis on “the number of HD channels” because they’re clearing lacking in that department.

Future of HD

Fiber technologies like Verizon Fios and AT&T U-verse make it really easy to add additional HD channels. Cable and satellite companies have to figure how to squeeze more channels onto their networks before they can add many more. Some cable companies are even reducing the quality of their HD channels just so they can fit more (see Comcast HDTV compression).

If you haven’t upgrade to HDTV, what are you waiting for? HDTV prices are falling across the board, and HD channels are popping up like crazy!