Blockbuster to Take Video Sales and Rentals Online

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.

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ATSC Transmission Standard Flawed, says Sinclair Broadcasting

Unheard by the general public, a debate has been raging in engineering circles about the <A HREF="http://www.atsc.org/">Advanced Television Standards Committee</A>'s transmission protocol for high-definition TV. Mandated by the <A HREF="http://www.fcc.gov/">Federal Communications Commission</A>, the standard, known as 8-VSB (trellis-coded 8-level vestigial sideband), has come under fire from several directions, most notably from <A HREF="http://www.sbgi.com/">Sinclair Broadcasting</A>, which has called for an overhaul of the standard after a series of DTV reception tests in the Philadelphia area.

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Sony Electronics Announces Availability of High-Definition Plasma Display

Last week, <A HREF="http://www.sony.com/displaysystems">Sony Electronics</A> announced that its newest 16:9 flat-panel plasma display, the PFM-510A1WU high-resolution 42" (viewable area, measured diagonally) monitor, is now available. Sony claims that the new monitor, originally debuted at NAB in April 1999, is one of the first on the market to offer over 1,000,000 pixel capability in a plasma display, and is capable of handling high-definition video signals.

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HDTV Not Up to Snuff?

Wading into the recently erupted battle over the future of HDTV (see <A HREF="http://www.guidetohometheater.com/shownews.cgi?553">related article</A>), the <A HREF="http://www.CEMAcity.org">Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association</A> (CEMA) filed a Motion for Immediate Dismissal with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week in response to a proposal submitted earlier by Sinclair Broadcasting. CEMA claims its Motion (available for reading on its <A HREF="http://www.CEMAcity.org">website</A>) is aimed at urging the Commission to avoid a "costly, dead-end path of reopening the digital television (DTV) standard approved in 1996."

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10% in UK Now Have Digital DBS

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.

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Setting The Parent Trap on DVD

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>

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Coming Soon: Movies on Demand from Time-Warner

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>.

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US Digital TV Strategy Faltering?

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.

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Convergence Takes New Twist with Hearst-Argyle/Geocast Deal

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.

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RCA Ships Affordable HDTV Receiver/Monitor Combo

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.

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