Jul 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Can’t we all just get along?

High-definition TV sets are in fewer than 7 million homes-and it’s little wonder. Hi-def companies often seem more interested in pushing agendas than promoting sales. In the past year there’s been more infighting than during an episode of “WWE Smackdown.” To wit:
* Comcast refuses to carry CBS’s HD feed because, it says, the network will not make it available for free;
* The National Association of Broadcasters accuses cable operators of dragging their feet on local HD feeds;
* Entertainment companies threaten to withhold movies and TV shows unless digital TV makers add an anti-piracy feature.
* The FCC requires TV makers to install digital tuners in all sets by 2007; the consumer electronics industry sued, saying compliance will raise the price of televisions.
The noise has filled the marketplace with confusion and fear. Many consumers want to buy a hi-def set but are concerned that industry politics will make it obsolete overnight. Or they are afraid they will have little to watch after shelling out $2,000 or more for a new set. In other words, the industry has unwillingly sent a message that high-definition TV is not ready for prime time.
HDTV sales have increased over the past 12 to 18 months. The crystal-clear picture and dropping prices have lured more consumers into the showroom. However, the industry could really take off if everyone would simply get on the same page.
So I propose that the FCC call an emergency summit of the top leaders in HDTV. Officials from cable and satellite, Hollywood and Silicon Valley would come together to develop creative solutions.
The summit wouldn’t achieve overnight results, but it would give consumers more confidence in the new technology.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell, the ball is in your court.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.