CEA: One Million Cable-ready HDTVs

One million cable-ready high definition TVs will have been purchased by American consumers by the end of 2004, according to projections published June 23 by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

Cable-ready sets can accept direct feeds from cable providers without the need for set-top converter boxes (STBs)—the result of the "plug-and-play" agreement between manufacturers and cable providers that was ratified last fall by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A slot for an authorized "CableCARD" in the front panel of the sets allows users to receive high-def programming, including premium channels, without an STB.

"Receiving HDTV over cable without a set-top box is a long-awaited driver of the DTV transition and will provide millions of households with a seamless transition to high-def. It is important to note that Digital Cable Ready HDTVs also include over-the-air DTV tuners for terrestrial DTV broadcasts," said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro.

The bulk of cable-ready HDTV sales should take place in the fourth quarter of this year, according to CEA projections. Traditionally, most new TV sales occur during the winter holiday buying season, with a spike in sales prior to the annual NFL Super Bowl. Also due on sales floors this fall are sets equipped with twin ATSC tuners for high-def picture-in-picture functions.

With over one million CableCARDs to be issued a few months from now, retailers should enjoy "explosive growth" in HDTV sales, said CEA industry analysis director Sean Wargo. "We're bullish about DTV in 2004, particularly digital cable-ready HDTVs," he stated. The sets will be easily distinguished by their "Digital Cable Ready" (DCR) logo.

July 1, 2004 marks the start of the FCC-mandated production of large-screen TVs with built-in off-air DTV tuners, as well as the first day that cable providers will begin issuing CableCARDs to subscribers. Shapiro noted that the CEA presumes that cable companies have ordered enough CableCARDs to meet the anticipated demand.