Cablers, Broadcasters Boast HDTV Commitment

The cable industry is moving ahead with HDTV seeks media industry consensus on the DTV transition, National Cable and Telecommunications Association President and CEO Robert Sachs said.

In a speech May 15 before the annual meeting of the Advanced Television Systems Committee, Sachs said that the chief marketing challenge was getting consumers "to migrate from a very good analog TV system to an even better digital one." Citing the lengthy switchover from black-and-white to color televisions by consumers, he expects that "this transition is likely to take a very long time."

He noted that the expanding amount of HDTV services is an important trend to the cable industry because it "will create the market incentive for more American consumers to purchase digital TV sets.

"HDTV is key not only to the broadcasters' digital TV transition, but to cable's future growth," he said.

Sachs also gave a nod to the need for digital copyright protection to guard the revenue stream, and thus the incentive, for producers to create HDTV content.

He said reaching the 85-percent DTV penetration trigger mandated by Congress would be difficult, given that more than half of the 32 million non-cable TV households in America would have to purchase integrated DTVs or DTVs with set-top decoders to reach that mark.

Sachs also outlined how the cable industry has responded to FCC Chairman Michael Powell's call for media industries to take voluntary action to promote DTV use. Time Warner Cable is offering HDTV in more than 40 locations and other cable operators rolling out HDTV, he noted.

NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts told the ATSC that his industry was the one leading the HDTV charge. He commended cable somewhat for their commitment.

"My concern - and I'm sure cable viewers will share the same concern - is that the five HDTV channels may turn out to be Discovery 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5," he said. "Where would that leave cable consumers who spend most of their time watching local broadcast channels?"