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September 14, 2005

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like A High-Def Christmas



Courtesy of EE Times

Page 1 of 2


AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — The annual chorus of promises that high-definition television “has arrived” to sweep the viewing public off its feet was sung again at International Broadcast Conference (IBC) here, but came supported this time by two convincing forces — falling prices and government meddling.

Keynote speaker David Hill, chairman of Fox Sports Inc. and president of the DirecTV Entertainment Group, said that because an array of HDTV equipment, especially flat-screen 16:9 displays are finally becoming “mainstream affordable,” there will occur a “massive uptake at Christmas [2005] for HD” by consumers.

But an even stronger catalyst for HD adoption worldwide is that governments from the U.S. to Japan to Australia and Germany are mandating the phase-out of analog television broadcast, to be replaced by digital broadcast, which is increasingly high-definition capable.

Stating the case bluntly, panelist Peter Wilson of High Definition & Digital Cinema Ltd. (U.K.) said, “Regardless of what the market says, the government says that sales are going to increase.”

Perhaps most striking about the perennial HD report-card at IBC is how much nostalgia can be generated by a technology barely 15 years old. Most of the panelists slipped into fond reminiscence about a course of HD development that has never run smooth. Yukihiro Nishida of NHK-Japan, the broadcaster that started HD with its Hi-Vision effort in the late 1980’s, recalled the excitement of developing the cumbersome analog MUSE HD system.

For his part, keynoter Hill waxed sentimental about the first “HD” Super Bowl halftime show in 2002, when U2 performed in “wide-screen digital enhanced-definition” at a not-quite-HD resolution of 480 progressive-scan pixels per line.

But all the technical improvements in HD have so far failed to generate spending among consumers, largely because HDTV equipment costs too much compared to analog televisions, which most viewers still deem tolerably vivid. That problem, said Wilson, is disappearing. The average price of an HDTV receiver has declined, he said, from $3,147 in 1998 to $1,216 in 2005.

The trend will continue downward to $1,134 in 2006, close to the magic $1,000 threshold. Wilson cited two HD receivers now on the market at under $500. Chinese manufacturers are also trying to produce low-cost HDTV sets.

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Page 2: What's next? 3D TV


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