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Media chiefs call broadcast DTV deadline unrealistic

The digital broadcast transition deadline is unrealistic and the verdict is still out on DVRs, say executives from media companies who gathered at a conference last week to discuss the latest technologies affecting the TV industry.

The closing session of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association pitted executives from rival media giants, Walt Disney, NBC Universal, News Corp. and Time Warner, against each other in a panel on the changing entertainment industry, CNET reported.

The FCC’s current Dec. 31, 2006, deadline to limit analog television broadcasts and promote digital television was deemed unrealistic by NBC Universal’s Bob Wright.

Bob Iger, Disney’s chief operating officer, and Wright said the deadline is unrealistic because of the cost of equipment needed to produce shows in digital formats. Disney spent more than $100 million to build out its television operations for digital, and NBC Universal has spent more than $200 million.

Wright also said the effect of DVRs and giving viewers the ability to skip commercials was still not certain. Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes called the concern overblown. News Corp.’s President Peter Chernin — whose company owns satellite television provider DIRECTV with more than one million subscribers using TiVo’s DVR service — said it was hard to say what kind of impact DVRs would have but that the industry had to adjust quickly.

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