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CEA Predicts Digital Cable Ready HDTV Sales

Beginning this summer, American consumers for the first time will be able to receive digital high-definition television (HDTV) programming via cable without the need for a set-top box. In fact, theConsumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced today that by year’s end, more than one million so-called “Digital Cable Ready” (DCR) HDTVs are expected to be sold in the United States.

Under terms of the landmark cable-consumer electronics “plug-and-play” DCR agreement, ratified last fall by the Federal Communications Commission, CEA officially notified Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) today that more than a half million Digital Cable Ready HDTVs are expected to be on the market through Sept. 30, with more than a million HD sets and cable subscribers needing a CableCARD by the holiday season. That same number of CableCARDs will be needed to support the rollout of the dual ATSC-cable tuner integrated television sets. Coupled with a positive fourth-quarter forecast, this means explosive growth, eclipsing a million units in just six or seven months, according to CEA Director of Industry Analysis Sean Wargo.

“The extraordinary forecast represents DTV manufacturers’ rollout of integrated products having both ATSC tuners for off-air reception and cable tuners for digital cable reception,” said Wargo. “We’re bullish about DTV in 2004 – particularly Digital Cable Ready HDTVs – which consumers will easily identify by their distinct ‘DCR’ logo. With July 1, 2004 signifying the start of the FCC’s requirement for large-screen TVs with built-in off-air DTV tuners and the CableCARD implementation date, DTV manufacturers are working to provide American consumers DTV products that suit their reception needs.”

CEA has been preparing consumers for the introduction of Digital Cable Ready HDTVs since early this year. Print materials and an educational video have been distributed widely through consumer events, trade shows and media partners. In addition, a satellite media tour in March reached more than five million consumers in 15 markets with information about Digital Cable Ready HDTVs and the CableCARD. A CableCARD is the security card required from the cable provider in order for consumers to enjoy any encrypted programming or premium services.

CableCARDs are to be available directly from operators beginning July 1 – the date by which cable multiple system operators (MSOs) with digital systems (of 750Mhz) are required to support FCC-endorsed Digital Cable Ready standards.

“With hundreds of thousands of CableCARDs needed before football season gets underway, we presume that cable operators have ordered sufficient quantity of the new cards to insure that HDTV buyers will be able to get the cards they will need to become cable HDTV subscribers,” commented CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. “Receiving HDTV over cable without a set-top box is a long-awaited driver of the DTV transition and will provide millions of households with a seamless transition to high-def. It is important to note that Digital Cable Ready HDTVs also include over-the-air DTV tuners for terrestrial DTV broadcasts from more than 1,200 DTV stations and feature a secure digital interface to insure easy connection to high-definition services offered by satellite operators. Now, HDTV is virtually at your fingertips no matter how you receive your TV signal.”