By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Humax, a manufacturer of digital satellite set-top boxes for the global market, announced it has entered into a development and supply agreement with DirecTV for set-top receivers and integrated digital video recorders.
The agreement initially covers three integrated receiver descrambler (IRD) models, starting with a basic standard-definition receiver that is fully compatible with DirecTV's various new interactive services.
The second model is a standard-definition, dual-tuner MPEG-2 IRD with an integrated digital video recorder based on technology developed by News Corp.'s NDS subsidiary. News Corp. is also majority owner of DirecTV.
Both of those models will be available in the first half of the year.
The third model is a high-definition IRD that will receive and decode both MPEG-2 standard-definition and new MPEG-4 high-definition signals. DirecTV plans to begin transmission of MPEG-4 high-definition local broadcast channels in 12 major markets later in the year. Those new services will transmit from two new satellites.
The MPEG-4 box will be available “later in the year, in line with silicon availability,” the company said.
All three set-top boxes are being manufactured in line with DirecTV's strategy to dispense with manufacturer brands while maintaining a uniformity of look and operation in menus and graphical user interfaces throughout its equipment lines. DirecTV will market the Humax-built hardware through its established distribution channels.
Tony Goncalves, Humax business development and strategic marketing VP, said the deal with DirecTV has been in the works for the last nine months.
“This is a long-term development agreement with supply agreements attached to it for the products we have announced,” Goncalves said. “What we bring to the table is the ability to implement these new DirecTV technologies in cost-effective hardware in an expeditious manner.”
Humax had produced set-top equipment for DirecTV in the past, through a joint venture set-top box operation it operated with Samsung. Humax bought out Samsung's share in the joint venture operation two years ago.
The new announcement marks the addition of Humax to DirecTV's slate of set-top box manufacturing partners which includes Thomson and Samsung.
“This agreement with DirecTV is a statement that we are good at what we do,” Goncalves said. “One of the largest conglomerates of pay TV operators in the world [News Corp.] is saying that we are good at what we do. This is a significant revenue opportunity for our company that helps solidify our growth.”
In a prepared statement, Romulo Pontual, DirecTV's chief technology officer, said, “Humax brings years of proven cost effective set-top box design and manufacturing.”
Goncalves said Humax's deal with DirecTV does not impact its plans to continue manufacturing stand-alone digital video recorders based on the TiVo system, although it will not manufacturer TiVo recoders integrated into DirecTV equipment.
TiVo has been the primary digital video recorder technology on the DirecTV platform, but is now threatened by a new DVR strategy brought in when News Corp. gained control of the nation's largest direct broadcast satellite provider.
TiVo remains under contract to produce and maintain DirecTV/TiVo devices, but DirecTV has announced that it now plans a major expansion of DVR services using NDS's technology.
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