Industry Roundup

USDTV makes headway: Fledgling over-the-air pay TV service US Digital Television (USDTV) has signed more than 8000 subscribers in its six months in business, according to a Broadcast Engineering report August 16. The startup is the first terrestrial digital subscription TV service in the US to piggyback new digital broadcast channels of local television stations by leasing unused spectrum from participating broadcasters. Based in Salt Lake City, USDTV is also available in Albuquerque, NM and Las Vegas.

Encouraged by its initial success, USDTV hopes to be in 30 US markets by the end of the year. Subscription fee is $19.95/month for a package of 20 to 30 channels, with programming from ESPN, the Discovery Channel, the Food Network, and all major networks. USDTV broadcasts are in standard- or high-definition (1080i) resolution. Hardware requirements include an indoor or outdoor TV antenna and a $99 USDTV set-top box sold by Wal-Mart Stores and other retailers. "USDTV recently announced a technology partnership with LG Electronics and LG Innotek to supply fifth-generation 8-VSB chips and ATSC tuners for use in USDTV's set-top boxes . . . planned for shipments beginning in Q4 of 2004," stated the report.

Intel delays projection TV chip: Bucking an announcement made earlier this year, Intel Corporation has backed off plans to deliver microprocessors for projection television sets by the end of 2004. The Santa Clara, CA–based semiconductor giant will ultimately manufacturer chips for liquid crystal on silicon ("LCoS") technology, but declined to commit to a deadline for doing so. "We're evolving our product development plans," Intel spokeswoman Laura Anderson told reporters Monday August 16. The company made public its original plans at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

TI's PurePath meets Kenwood: On August 17, Texas Instruments (TI) announced a new consumer product from Kenwood featuring TI's PurePath Digital technology, claimed to produce "the most lifelike sound while enabling sleek, slim-profiled high power audio products. Kenwood's VRS-N8100 audio/video receiver incorporates TI' TAS5182 power stage, controlling two channels of up to 100 watts/6 ohms of high-efficiency output each, and the TAS5076, a 24-bit six-channel pulse-width modulator (PWM) processor. TI says that its noise shaping and error-correction filtering algorithms achieve superior dynamic range and flat noise floor with no spurious tones. The $700 VRS-N8100 will be available at major retailers in September 2004.

Sony seeks 35% of Japan's flat-TV market: An August 19 report from Tokyo states that Sony hopes to own 35% of the Japanese domestic flat-panel TV market in December 2004, a significant increase from the 30% market share claimed in the same month last year. Sony projects worldwide sales of 11.4 million televisions during the 2004–2005 fiscal year, up from 10.9 million sold in the year ended March 31. A Sony spokesman said the company anticipates a strong winter holiday season.

Silicon Optix acquisition: In late July, San Jose, CA–based Silicon Optix acquired Teranex, Inc., "leading supplier of Hollywood quality image processing solutions for the broadcast, post-production, and high-end home theater markets." Teranex's technology roots go back to the early 1980s, when Lockheed Martin developed it for tactical image and video processing. Teranex has spent many years perfecting the video processing algorithms in cooperation with the most demanding customers—the "Golden Eyes€� of broadcast and post-production. "We purchased Teranex for their mature and industry-proven programmable video processing hardware and software platforms," said Paul Russo, chairman and CEO for Silicon Optix. "They are well known as a €˜best of class' solution within the broadcast, post-production, cable, satellite and digital cinema industries, where quality cannot be compromised."

Prior to the acquisition, Silicon Optix had been working with Teranex in secrecy for almost two years, the announcement mentioned. "The results of our efforts for the home theater market will be revealed for first time at CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis September 10Ѿ12,€� said Silicon Optix marketing vice president Dennis Crespo.

Comcast's VOD NFL Network: Cable provider Comcast announced August 16 the impending launch of a National Football League Network as part of the company's video-on-demand (VOD) offerings. First market to try the new service will be Comcast digital cable subscribers in the Philadelphia area, who will have access to "preseason games, a deep trove of historic games, and other programs." Analysts said the service "could be a precursor to a more extensive agreement to gain access to lucrative Sunday games, as it seeks to lure more television watchers back to cable." Cable subscriptions have fallen as satellite television gains market share. Satellite service DirecTV has an exclusive contract for transmission of NFL Sunday games through 2005.

New ATSC standard: The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has approved a standard designed to facilitate the
construction of single frequency network (SFN) transmission systems utilizing distributed transmission, according to an August 19 press release. The new standard "defines the mechanisms for synchronization of transmitters emitting 8-VSB signals in accordance with the ATSC DTV Standard (A/53C)." It also provides for adjustment of transmitter timing and other characteristics, including distributed transmission involving the use of separate distribution channels to feed each transmitter in an SFN. "Distributed transmission (DTx) holds the potential to greatly improve the coverage and service areas of DTV transmission," said ATSC President, Mark Richer. The complete standard can be seen on the ATSC website.