April 5, 2005 7:50 PM PDT

Media honchos sound off on emerging TV tech

SAN FRANCISCO--The government's digital television transition deadline is unrealistic, and the verdict is still out on DVRs, according to executives from leading media companies who gathered at an industry conference this week.

The closing session of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association here Tuesday pitted executives from rival media giants--NBC Universal, News Corp., Time Warner and Walt Disney--against one another in a panel on the changing entertainment industry. However, in most cases they agreed on the impact of many new technologies, with the consensus being that older technologies, such as DVDs, are the current money makers, but they expect that to change.

"Our DVD sales make more money than Comcast, which is why they wanted to buy us," said Bob Iger, Disney's chief operating officer, referring to Comcast's failed acquisition attempt of Disney. "Those new technologies (video on demand, digital video recorders and high-definition television) will become good businesses, but they aren't now."

Seasons of television shows on DVD make up the fastest-growing segment in Time Warner's DVD sales, Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes said. News Corp.'s president, Peter Chernin, estimated that his company did $700 million in DVD sales. While there's still a lot of life in tried-and-true products, emerging technologies not only attract gadget-hungry consumers; in some cases they help overcome key concerns in the industry.

For example, high-definition television programs offer sharper picture quality, but their high level of data content--HDTV shows have more image detail and use more storage capacity--make it tougher to copy shows and distribute them over the Internet.

"If consumers like (HDTV), it could help to ease DRM (digital rights management)," Bewkes said.

However, the Federal Communications Commission's current Dec. 31, 2006, deadline to limit analog television broadcasts and promote digital television was deemed unrealistic by NBC Universal's Bob Wright.

"It's realistic if you're comfortable with chaos," Iger chided. "It's a probable disaster."

The reason has to do with cost of equipment needed to shoot shows in digital, which is expensive, according to Iger and Wright. Disney spent more than $100 million to build out its television operations for digital, and NBC Universal has spent more than $200 million.

"We can't strand people," Wright said.

Wright also said the effect of DVRs and giving viewers the ability to skip commercials was still not certain. Bewkes called the concern overblown.

Chernin--whose company owns satellite television company DirecTV, with more than 1 million subscribers using TiVo's DVR service--said that it's hard to say what kind of impact DVRs would have but that the industry has to adjust quickly.

"We may not like (DVRs), but we better learn to live with it and profit from it," Chernin said.

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Bah. Ask a convicted killer if he likes the death penalty...
...of course not.
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
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Bah. Ask a convicted killer if he likes the death penalty...
...of course not.
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TV is starting to show signs of DEATH
If the music industry can struggle and Hollywood can bleed, then surely it is time to consider the possibility that TV is on its deathlegs.

All sorts of media forms are under attack from blogs. Even shows like Enterprise are badly written and are cancelled. Google and Yahoo are rushing into video search. Europe strips Media Player out of MS Windows. High definition TV shows a serious lack of network resolve and definitely little public enthusiasm. And the list goes on and on and on ...

What a difference 'two years' can make ...

Well, who knows what 2007 will bring?
Posted by (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TV is starting to show signs of DEATH
If the music industry can struggle and Hollywood can bleed, then surely it is time to consider the possibility that TV is on its deathlegs.

All sorts of media forms are under attack from blogs. Even shows like Enterprise are badly written and are cancelled. Google and Yahoo are rushing into video search. Europe strips Media Player out of MS Windows. High definition TV shows a serious lack of network resolve and definitely little public enthusiasm. And the list goes on and on and on ...

What a difference 'two years' can make ...

Well, who knows what 2007 will bring?
Posted by (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How to get digital TV into more homes quickly
The majority of Americans receive their television signals via cable. The fastest way to get digital TV into American homes is with DVRs that can record both SDTV & HDTV in their native, digital formats, but support analog playback (composite, S-video, component) in addition to digital playback (DVI, HDMI, firewire, etc).

Consumers have used VCRs as substitute cable tuners for older TVs for years. Digital television reception via a DVR would not be substantially different. A DVR is cheaper than a new DTV, and since a VCR has moving parts it is more likely to wear out and need replacement before the consumer's analog TV.
Posted by C.Schroeder (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How to get digital TV into more homes quickly
The majority of Americans receive their television signals via cable. The fastest way to get digital TV into American homes is with DVRs that can record both SDTV & HDTV in their native, digital formats, but support analog playback (composite, S-video, component) in addition to digital playback (DVI, HDMI, firewire, etc).

Consumers have used VCRs as substitute cable tuners for older TVs for years. Digital television reception via a DVR would not be substantially different. A DVR is cheaper than a new DTV, and since a VCR has moving parts it is more likely to wear out and need replacement before the consumer's analog TV.
Posted by C.Schroeder (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Remember, it's not about you, it's about them
It always helps to remind ourselves that the reason behind the FCC's drive to digital is not their desire to bring us good television, but their desire to make big bucks for the government and the Republican constituency by auctioning off the portions of the airwaves that they control for cell phones, satellite tv, etc. Digitalization lets them carve out more profitable bandwith from the same space. Short deadlines will almost certainly mean higher rates for all forms of tv as the transition costs get passed on to the consumer, in effect asking the lowly to subsidize the FCC's gift to Bushes' base...who will undoubtedly pick up the bandwith at favorable rates...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Remember, it's not about you, it's about them
It always helps to remind ourselves that the reason behind the FCC's drive to digital is not their desire to bring us good television, but their desire to make big bucks for the government and the Republican constituency by auctioning off the portions of the airwaves that they control for cell phones, satellite tv, etc. Digitalization lets them carve out more profitable bandwith from the same space. Short deadlines will almost certainly mean higher rates for all forms of tv as the transition costs get passed on to the consumer, in effect asking the lowly to subsidize the FCC's gift to Bushes' base...who will undoubtedly pick up the bandwith at favorable rates...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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