First of Many DTVs?

According to new consumer research, more than 95% of digital television (DTV) owners would purchase a DTV set again. That overwhelmingly definitive stamp of approval for DTV was presented last week to conference attendees struggling with HDTV's rollout at the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) DTV Summit, "Is Laissez-Faire Fair?" in Washington, DC.

Also according to the report, the two most important factors for consumers who have considered buying a DTV are having the programs they watch most often available in high-definition format and being able to get high-definition programming through cable or satellite providers.

In his opening remarks at the conference, the CEA's Gary Shapiro stated, "The rollout of DTV has already outpaced that of color TV. In fact, this year alone we expect to sell more than one million units representing over Two billion dollars in sales, a milestone that historically has marked the beginnings of a true mass-market product."

In the morning keynote at the DTV Summit, Senator Conrad Burns noted that prices for DTV products have dropped by more than 40% since 1998. He also suggested that Congress "would be forced to act on cable carriage if the cable industry does not respond to market forces and agree to carry HDTV."

Neal Goldberg, National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) general counsel, pointed to the lack of compelling content as the reason for cable's resistance to carrying HDTV. Other panelists agreed that more content is needed, but held that cable carriage would greatly accelerate the transition and pointed to the leadership of CBS in providing HDTV programming.

In the final session, Tom Hayden, from Showtime Networks, pointed to his company's swift progress in producing more high definition content. Jim Goodman, from CBS affiliate WRAL in Raleigh, NC, spoke about his station's continued creation and carriage of substantial HDTV programming. When asked why his station is one of too few HDTV content carriers, Goodman pointed to cable's refusal to carry the programming and to the cost of switching from analog to digital, although he did note "how dramatically that cost has dropped over the past few years."

A transcript of the DTV Summit is available at CEA's research report, "Updating Perspectives on the Digital TV Transition: General Consumer and Owner Surveys," is available through the CEA Market Research Department at (703) 907-7600.