In the comic books of the 1960s, "X-Ray Specs" were hot commodities in the back-page ads. The mail-order eyeware supposedly enabled users to see through walls, doors, and ordinary clothing---a compelling motivation for millions of adolescent males who saved their lunch money for weeks to buy them. In what was probably their first introduction to marketing hype, the disappointed boys discovered that the specs were a fraud.
Sandor Hasznos of Denver, Colorado, purchased a television on July 31, and it was delivered last week. This might not seem like a big deal---unless you consider that this was the first HDTV officially sold in the US. The set, a <A HREF="http://www.panasonic.com">Panasonic</A> PT-56WXF90, was the first one bought at <A HREF="http://www.ultimateelectronics.com">Ultimate Electronics</A> during an HDTV preview event that drew over 4000 digital-television enthusiasts.
The new holy grail of the media business is video-on-demand (VOD)---the ability to make high-quality video, audio, and Web content available on customers' TVs when they want it, not according to a broadcaster's schedule. When you add shopping-on-demand supported by live video and sound, you have the makings of a new media empire.
Currently, a relative handful of people worldwide subscribe to Internet-on-TV services. However, according to a recent study by <A HREF="http://www.sriconsulting.com/">SRI Consulting</A>, a research firm based in Menlo Park, California, the number of Net-TV subscribers will mushroom to over 12 million in less than four years, and the cable industry is in the best position to serve these new customers.
The set-top box could eventually become the center of your attention, which is why several turf wars have broken out to win control over this part of the home-theater market. With DTV on the horizon, cable and satellite companies will be upgrading the services that feed your TV with some mix of standard and high-definition digital audio and video. And as movie distribution moves toward a pay-per-view future, the gateway to these services---the set-top box---will have more prominence in most home-theater systems.
If the early numbers are any indication, HDTV will have plenty of support from the broadcast/production end of the media business. According to a recent survey conducted by <A HREF="http://www.scri.com">SCRI International, Inc.</A>, more than 40% of broadcast and production facilities around the world have already purchased and/or expect to purchase HDTV production/broadcast equipment by the year 2000.
The Internet is "more than a marketing medium---it's a revenue stream," says <A HREF="http://www.newlinecinema.com/">New Line Cinema</A>'s Gordon Paddison, one of a growing army of Hollywood promoters who are using the Internet to build interest in current films as well as those that are about to be released. Paddison has run several promotions on <A HREF="http://www.yahoo.com/">Yahoo.com</A> that have lured thousands of customers into theaters to redeem coupons available only on the Web.
V<I>al Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Kevin Dillon, Frank Whaley, Kathleen Quinlan. Directed by Oliver Stone. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (letterbox). Dolby Digital 5.1. 135 minutes. 1991. Live Entertainment 60451. Rated R. $29.95.</I>