All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go?

According to figures released last week by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), factory sales to dealers for digital television (DTV) displays for the month of June were 26,750 units, which the CEA claims is "the biggest sales month to date for DTV." The figures also show that the June figures brought DTV display sales for 2000 to 129,438, surpassing total display sales in 1999 (121,226). The CEA adds that these figures include DTV and HDTV display monitors that require the addition of a set-top box to receive digital broadcasts, as well as DTV and HDTV sets that include a DTV tuner. In addition, the CEA reports that 17,671 standalone set-top receivers have been sold to dealers since January 2000.

The CEA's Gary Shapiro states that "these numbers demonstrate that, despite limited broadcast programming and some who advocate delays in the broadcast community, consumers are buying DTV. Non-broadcast digital and high-definition content is available to consumers via satellite and, in some markets, via cable. And many consumers are simply opting to buy DTV and HDTV displays now to enhance their analog TV and DVD experience."

Interestingly, the figures reveal that, to date, the majority of DTV factory sales have been DTV and HDTV displays that require the addition of a set-top box to receive digital broadcasts. In 1999, 17% of the total DTV products sold (including monitors, integrated sets, and digital set-top receivers) were capable of receiving digital broadcasts. The CEA expects this trend to continue as long as some broadcasters question the DTV standard or insist on using DTV primarily as a subscription data service.

Shapiro warns that broadcasters need to keep the ball rolling, stating that "even as consumers enjoy non-broadcast digital and high-definition content from a variety of sources, some vocal broadcasters are dragging their feet, confusing consumers, and stalling the broadcast transition to DTV. Broadcasters made a commitment to deliver DTV in return for the loan of valuable public spectrum. Further delays are a denial of the public trust. Lingering debates over the digital broadcast standard and efforts to accommodate new broadcast business models cannot be allowed to trump consumer interest in DTV."

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