HDTV Forum a Hit

HDTV is permanently on the map with its own annual high-level convention. This year's inaugural event, HDTV Forum: Enabling HDTV from the Factory to the Home, took place in Marina del Rey, California, in mid-November, and drew attendees from a wide range of related industries. Sponsored by international research firms DisplaySearch and Insight Media, and by the Consumer Electronics Association, the sold-out event included over 40 presentations and panel discussions, covering the creation and distribution of HDTV content, all TV display and electronics technologies, experiences and challenges in online and retail channels, and market forecasts.

The all-inclusive approach was a great success, according to DisplaySearch president Ross Young, "We hoped that by bringing together the entire TV food chain, we would accelerate awareness regarding the benefits and status of HDTV technology and programming in order to minimize the chicken and egg problem that has affected this technology, and also to help fuel growth. It was important for TV manufacturers, panel/tube/engine/IC manufacturers and resellers to learn of network and movie studio commitments to HDTV content. At the same time, it was important for the networks and movie studios to learn of the TV manufacturers ambitious plans to sell a lot more HDTVs. With the FCC digital tuner mandate upheld by the US Court of Appeals, the digital cable 'Plug & Play' agreement accepted by the FCC, and the FCC having defined the 'Broadcast Flag' encoding rules regarding content protection, everything now appears to be in place for rapid HDTV content and HDTV growth."

Young emphasized that "the rapid growth of HDTV is now inevitable."

Highlights included observations made by keynote speaker Jim Sanduski. The v.p. of marketing for Samsung Electronics, Sanduski noted that this year's breakthrough "plug and play" agreement between the cable industry and equipment makers could prove to be a "tipping point" for the rapid market penetration of HDTV. The CEA's Sam Wargo pointed out the importance of continuing consumer education to teach people what HDTV is all about. HDNet's Karl Miesenbach embarrassed attendees after a show of hands revealed perhaps only 5% owned HDTV sets.

Some presenters offered projections for the near future. Among them: Through 2007, CRT TVs should continue to dominate the market for all sizes below 40". LCoS technology should become a market factor within a couple of years, due to superior image quality, 1080p resolution, and perhaps single-chip architectures, according to a November 18 report from DisplaySearch. DLP should continue to dominate RPTV technology. "as the polysilicon LCD outlook looks mixed," according to the report.

Advancements: at least two manufacturers have extended PDP lifetimes to 60K hours with minimum burn-in. LCD TV production is getting a big boost from companies such as Samsung and CMO, which revealed that they intend to spend $16 billion and $9 billion on new LCD TV panel capacity. Sharp is another strong contender in the LCD category. DisplaySearch expects LCD TVs to lead in HDTV unit shipments by 2006. Front projectors will also be a growing trend. Hewlett Packard estimates monthly production of as many as one million units per month in the near future.