The world's number-one video rental business will join the Internet gold rush early next year. <A HREF="http://www.blockbuster.com/">Blockbuster Video</A> announced October 20 that it will relaunch its website in November with sales of new and used VHS tapes and DVDs. Video rentals will be available online sometime in the second quarter of next year, company executives said.
L<I>indsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix, Lisa Ann Walter, Simon Kunz. Directed by Nancy Meyers. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (widescreen). Dolby Digital 5.1. 128 minutes. 1998. Walt Disney Home Video 16888. PG. $24.95.</I>
The FCC's plan to convert US households to digital television by 2006 is on the verge of collapse, according to a new report by consultants <A HREF="http://www.strategyanalytics.com">Strategy Analytics</A>. Their report, titled "Interactive and Digital Television: Issues in the Transition Phase," predicts that fewer than 5% of US households will be watching over-the-air DTV by 2005, with terrestrial broadcasters expected to use their digital capacity increasingly for data services. Terrestrial broadcasters can use their digital (DTV) capacity for either HDTV (high-definition TV) or SDTV (standard-definition TV), and there is currently debate over whether the industry should change the technical specifications of the ATSC standard.
Cable subscribers in Tampa, Florida and Austin, Texas will be the first in the nation to get movies whenever they wish. <A HREF="http://www.pathfinder.com/corp/">Time Warner</A>, the nation's second-largest cable company, is preparing to roll out video-on-demand to its subscribers in those cities by the end of the year, according to an October 15 report in the <A HREF="http://www.ajc.com/"><I>Atlanta Journal and Constitution</I></A>.
In the past 12 months, 1.8 million homes have signed on to <A HREF="http://www.skydigital.co.uk/">British Sky Broadcasting</A>'s digital Direct Broadcast Satellite service, the company reported in mid-October. Approximately 45% of them are completely new subscribers. With an estimated half-million homes connected to the COFDM DTV service, the total market penetration of digital television in the United Kingdom is now 2.3 million homes, or slightly more than 10%. By comparison, market penetration of digital delivery services (cable and DBS) in the US is now about 12%, after five years of service from <A HREF="http://www.directv.com/">DirecTV</A>, <A HREF="http://www.echostar.com/">Echostar</A>, and digital cable.
The high-resolution benefits of digital television could reach millions of consumers within a year or two, thanks to a new module from electronics giant <A HREF="http://www.motorola.com/">Motorola</A>. On October 4, the company announced its MCT5100 M-DTV module, an integrated device combining the functions of Motorola's 8-VSB demodulator, the MCT2100, with an MPEG decoder and controller. Installed in an appropriate monitor, the module will "implement a complete Advanced Television Standards Committee (ATSC) digital television," according to advance publicity.
According to figures released last week by the <A HREF="http://www.cemacity.org">Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association</A> (CEMA), an additional 900,000 DVD-Video players were shipped to retail in the third quarter of 1999, bringing total year-to-date hardware shipments to 2.2 million. The CEMA statistics also reveal that DVD-Video experienced approximately a 225% rate of growth in the third quarter of 1999 vs. the third quarter of 1998, shipping 600,000 more hardware units than shipped in the third quarter of 1998. CEMA estimates that total players shipped in 1999 will exceed 3 million units.
As TVs become much more like computers, computers may become much more like TVs. That's one implication of a $10 million deal signed in early October by <A HREF="http://www.hearstargyle.com/">Hearst-Argyle Television</A> and <A HREF="http://www.geocast.com/">Geocast Network Systems</A>. The two companies plan to deliver a new-media program service to personal computers using a portion of Hearst-Argyle's over-the-air digital broadcast spectrum. The programming to be offered will originate with national networks, local TV stations, and other information and entertainment services.
In a recent poll conducted on the <I>SGHT</I> website, a majority of home-theater fans expressed their desire for an HDTV version of DVD to get them interested in the new high-definition formats. But so far, the storage capacity required to store the massive amounts of data needed by even 20 minutes of HDTV exceeded anything likely to be available in the foreseeble future.
Until recently, the ticket price for consumers wishing to get into the high-definition TV game was $5000-$6000. With a new receiver/monitor combination that began shipping the first week of October, <A HREF="http://www.rca.com/">RCA</A> has slashed that price in half. The model MM36100 is a 36"-diagonal digital high-resolution television monitor with a suggested list price of $2499. A companion receiver/converter box, the DTC100, carries a suggested retail price of $649. The pair are expected to sell together for around $3000.