The <A HREF="http://www.fcc.gov/">Federal Communications Commission</A> has begun looking into problems presented by the proliferation of digital cable systems, problems that could offer pirates the opportunity to make an infinite number of perfect copies of high-definition movies from transmissions over pay-per-view channels like Showtime and Home Box Office. The lack of a reliable copyright-protection technology is hindering the rollout of high-definition television.
As many as 12 recent releases from <A HREF="http://www.miramax.com/">Miramax Films</A> will be streamed over the Internet in the coming months, the Walt Disney Company–owned studio announced April 19. Among the offerings will be 1998 Oscar winner <I>Shakespeare in Love</I>, which will be transmitted using encryption technology from <A HREF="http://www.sightsound.com/">SightSound</A>, a company that has been renting films at its site for the past year, and that recently launched an Initial Public Offering of its stock.
The <A HREF="http://www.ce.org">Consumer Electronics Association</A> reported last week that manufacturers' shipments of video products grew by "an incredible" 30% during March. "The strong March increase brought total first-quarter sales to 13.3 million units, a 21% increase over the first quarter of 1999. The growth in March was reflective of a larger trend of prosperity in video product sales, as all categories posted double-digit increases for both the month and year-to-date," stated the organization.
J<I>udy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke. Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (full-frame). Dolby Digital 5.1 and mono. 101 minutes. 1939. MGM/Warner Bros. 65123. G. $24.95.</I>
Direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) companies have fought hard to gain parity with cable TV providers. A recent regulatory decision allowing the retransmission of local TV signals by satellite will go a long way toward giving DBSers equal footing with cable, and is the result of a long campaign of invoking "the free market" and "open competition."
At the NAB show in Las Vegas, <A HREF="http://www.sonicsolutions.com/">Sonic Solutions</A> announced a technology partnership with <A HREF="http://www.ravisent.com">Ravisent Technologies</A> that is intended to bring high-definition DVD to content developers and consumers for the first time. Sonic says that the new format, called hDVD, expands DVD beyond standard-definition video to include any of the 18 ATSC video formats, including 1080i and 720p.
Last week, <A HREF="http://jvc.com">Victor Company of Japan</A> announced that it has developed a new copyright-protection system for prerecorded D-VHS content, as well as for in-home analog and digital recording. JVC says that the copyright-protection feature will be included within the D-VHS standard and adds that "this new standard makes it possible to develop and produce prerecorded HD (High Definition) video content as well as add momentum to the development of D-VHS hardware products."
The American broadcasting industry needs an attitude adjustment, according to <A HREF="http://www.fcc.gov/">Federal Communications Commission</A> chairman William Kennard. At last week's <A HREF="http://www.nab.org/">National Association of Broadcasters</A> convention in Las Vegas, Kennard took the industry to task for the slow rollout of digital television, mandated by his agency for more than two years now. The consumer electronics industry has embraced the promise of digital television from the beginning.