CEA Math: DTV - D = HDTV (Sort of)

"Soon, DTV will be known as TV," according to Consumer Electronics Association chief Gary Shapiro at last week's HDTV Summit in Washington--a CEA rite of spring usually held just before the cherry blossoms are in bloom. But, he said, what will remain prominent amid the digital landscape once the analog dust has settled will be HD. CEA has always put a happy face on projected HD growth, even when there was little to be happy about, but for the first time even a growing number of skeptical observers see HD showing some real growth potential, as DTV itself (mainly via digital cable tiers) starts becoming more the norm than the exception to the rule.

CEA has been lobbying for picking a specific date for the eventual cut-off of analog, while broadcasters generally oppose a drop-dead cut-off. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, supports a date-certain for offing analog and, of course, was invited to speak to the summit about it. He said he would introduce related legislation by the summer. Barton and fellow GOP Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the House Telecom Subcommittee, envision a projected purse approaching $5 billion from government auctions of the surrendered analog spectrum. Some of the auction funds may help fund transition costs for low-income consumers who cannot afford it themselves (and the operative words here are "some" and "may").

Also at the summit, somewhat conflicting new projection numbers for "DTV unit sales" (which encompass more than HD-capable monitors and receivers) were announced, with one set predicting 20 million units will be sold within this calendar year--for a total of 36 million units sold from 1998-2005. A more cautious projection pegged total sales of 50 million units from 1998-2009. As usual, these "units" refer solely to units sold to dealers, not sold to consumers.