USDTV Markets DTV Multicasting as Cable Alternative

January 19, 2004
A story by Shen Wei on caught my attention. Hisense signed an agreement to provide 100,000 set-top digital receivers to US Digital Television, Inc.. A little research showed USDTV is offering an interesting assortment of programming multicast by Salt Lake City DTV stations. Shen Wei's article, Hisense taps into US digital TV market indicates the Chinese DTV maker sees the agreement as a way to bring its DTV products to the U.S. market. The article quoted a senior Hisense official saying that since USDTV's equity backers have ties to Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart outlets through the U.S could distribute Hisense digital TV products. Under the agreement Hisense will export more than 400,000 receivers to USDTV every year, although the scale of exports could be adjusted to meet demand.

Bob Mims, writing in the Salt Lake Tribune, said the service would officially launch in February and will feature 30 channels, including the Salt Lake area stations and five HDTV channels from KUTV, KTVX, KSL, KUED and KBYU. The article, Draper TV Service takes on industry giants said USDTV, based in Draper, UT, plans to expand the service to 30 major markets. Subscribers pay only $99 for the DTV set-top box, but face a steep fee if they drop the service in less than 12 months. The monthly fee is $19.95. lists the channels subscribers can receive. In addition to the local stations, cable channels multicast with the free signals on the local stations' DTV channels include the Disney Channel, the Disney Toon Channel, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, Home and Garden TV, Food Network, The Learning Channel, Discovery, ESPN and ESPN2. The site also lists four basic rules for DTV signal reception: 1) Outdoors is better; 2) Higher is better; 3) Closer is better; and 4) Bigger is better.

It will be interesting to see if the USDTV model is successful. Assuming broadcasters are getting part of the subscriber revenue, it could give local broadcasters some of their first income from their DTV channel. It could also rapidly increase the number of DTV viewers, through mass-market distribution of low cost set-top boxes at Wal-Mart. The Salt Lake Tribune article said the set-top boxes cost USDTV $150, but as mentioned earlier would be sold to subscribers for only $99.

See the China Daily article Hisense taps into US digital TV market and the Salt Lake Tribune article Draper TV Service takes on industry giants for more information on this interesting development in the U.S. DTV transition.

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