NYTimes.com Article: Pact Lifts an Obstacle to HDTV Transition

khare@alumni.caltech.edu khare@alumni.caltech.edu
Fri, 3 Jan 2003 07:22:03 -0500 (EST)

This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by khare@alumni.caltech.edu.

Hmm.. any links to technical details? This is indeed a MAJOR issue, but I don't think this is really going to help until we resolve "must-carry" -- sure, an ATSC channel is the same 6 MHz wide as an NTSC one, but in the meantime every cable op got away with compressing the shit out of SD and is now whining that having to carry all the local stations in full ATSC (incl. multicast) would knock 50+ cable channels "off the air" (gotta love those anachronistic metaphors!) -- RK


Pact Lifts an Obstacle to HDTV Transition

January 2, 2003


THE switch from analog to digital high-definition
television has been slow and bumpy. But representatives of
the consumer electronics and cable television industries
predict that a new set of rules negotiated last month will
accelerate the transition. 

Soon purchasers of new high-definition, or HD, TV sets will
be able to receive programming through their cable systems
as easily as they now can with an analog set, by plugging a
standard cable into the back of the television. Today most
HDTV sets require a separate set-top box to receive digital
cable programming, and the transmission standards differ
from cable system to cable system. 

Under an agreement between representatives of the Consumer
Electronics Association and the National Cable and
Telecommunications Association, new cable-ready HDTV's to
be introduced in the next few years will be plug-and-play;
they will no longer need a separate box to receive digital
broadcasts, HDTV versions of pay services or any other
available basic cable or pay-TV programming. 

Up to now there has been no industry standard for how the
cable companies transmit high-definition programming, so an
HDTV-capable set-top box designed for one system may not
work with another. The consumer electronics industry has
long argued that consumers have delayed buying digital
televisions because they did not know how to connect them
to their cable services, did not know if they could record
HDTV programs, did not want to use a separate converter
box, or feared that the sets would become obsolete. 

"This agreement breaks down the biggest obstacle to the
transition to HDTV," said Gary Shapiro, president and chief
executive of the Consumer Electronics Association. The
agreement must still be approved by the Federal
Communications Commission. 

Certain offerings like video-on-demand movies and
interactive programming will still require a separate box
under the accord, but that is expected to change as well
once another agreement is reached between the two

If a set-top box is required, it will be attached to an
HDTV with a type of digital connector called DVI that is
beginning to appear on HDTV models. A DVI connector is for
viewing digital programming; to record a digital program in
a digital format, users will also need what is known as an
IEEE 1394, or FireWire, plug to connect the TV and the

A crucial part of the agreement guarantees that if a
set-top box has both the older analog and newer digital
connectors, the signal must be sent through both, so that
owners of current HDTV's with older connectors will still
be able to receive the signals. 

The digital FireWire connection will allow program
providers to restrict the number of times that a program
can be recorded. Under the agreement, HDTV programs from
network broadcasters sent through cable or satellite
companies will be completely unrestricted and recordable.
Subscribers to pay services like HBO could be restricted
from making more than one copy of programs from those

While the agreement allows program providers to prevent any
recording of pay-per-view or video-on-demand programs,
users of hard-disk-based recorders like TiVo would be
allowed to record and then watch such a program up to 90
minutes later. 


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