HDTV Finally Moving Forward?

In a move that promises to significantly enhance HDTV access for consumers across the United States, representatives of a number of industries last week announced their support of the Digital Visual Interface (DVI) with high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) for transmission of high definition video content from set-top boxes to television monitors.

Supporting the new digital interface standard are CableLabs, DirecTV, EchoStar's Dish Network, Fox, the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, Sony, Disney, Thomson, and Warner Bros. The group said it hopes that wide support for the new "protected" interface will ensure consistent standards and "foster greater availability of high definition video content with optimum viewing for up to 85 million television viewing households in the United States, as well as high definition set-top boxes and display devices."

According to the group, the DVI/HDCP standard delivers video in an uncompressed format and also supports real-time complex graphics displays and user interfaces found in program guides, as well as other interactive features for high-definition digital television. Speaking on behalf of the cable industry, CableLabs' Dr. Richard R. Green said, "We believe support of DVI will complement the industry's support of the 1394 interface with 5C copy protection, which dates back to 1998. Cable is still committed to the 1394/5C interface, and intends to support both DVI and 1394/5C on set-top boxes designed for connection to high-definition television sets."

Beginning next year, DirecTV says, all of its licensed consumer electronic manufacturers will begin to incorporate a DVI connector with high-bandwidth digital content protection into new DirecTV-enabled high definition digital set-top boxes. The company's David Baylor adds that "DirecTV has taken the initiative to support this new digital interface to ensure that there will be a greater selection of high definition content and digital receiving devices available to consumers in the future."

DirecTV's competitor, Echostar, reports that its Dish Network is already working to incorporate a DVI with high bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) into its next-generation HDTV set-top boxes. The company's Dave Kummer states that "DVI with HDCP will be a key component to expanding Dish Network HDTV programming and equipment offerings that allow for digital video recording (DVR) and web browsing functionality by providing uncompressed video data to the television monitor. If the connection from the set-top to the TV were limited to only 1394/5C, these functions would be much more difficult to achieve." Echostar adds that it does recommend the use of 1394/5C as the interface between recordable high definition devices while DVI/HDCP should become the standard for connection to the display device.

Movie studios say that support for HDCP-protected DVI interconnects is growing quickly among the content production industry players as well. Fox's Andrew G. Setos explains that "the arrival of DVI using HDCP to the existing 1394 using DTCP technology provides the designers of systems which deliver high level content to consumers a choice of protected connections—each optimized for different applications—and frees them of reliance on the unprotected component analog technology of the past."