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Mark Cuban Expounds On CE, Related Issues At CEA Event

San Francisco – Mark Cuban, chairman/president of HDNet, talked about YouTube, Google, copy protection, and the CE living room of the near future at the CEA Industry Forum’s lunch, here, on Tuesday.

In an informative and entertaining one-on-one session with Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA, Cuban speculated on what the typical living room in five to 10 years would look like in terms of CE products.

“The centerpiece will be an LCD or plasma display. It will be connected to a 1TB hard drive that will have all the audio, video, still images —anything you and your family have collected — and play on your TV.”

What he would like to see eliminated is “all the drama you get from distribution, from cable and satellite companies, HD DVD and Blu-ray as to where and how you can view the content.” He clearly sees “6.1, 7.1 hey 19.1 Dolby Digital” as part of the system, but he hopes that all of this will not be dependent upon broadband.

Cuban would love to give consumers “uncompressed HD. When editors work with that type of content in a dark room they have to recalibrate their eyes when they go outside. Nobody now can deliver that quality and we need a way to deliver it to the TV.”

The big challenge he sees down the road is that “we now live in a digital content universe. How do you want content and when? I love to try and figure that out.”

Cuban volunteered a somewhat radical notion that the Internet is not the future, but in many cases the past. “A decade ago people thought the Internet was the next CB radio. It wasn’t, but today it is old news. It is larger and faster, but old.” He noted that the PC’s configuration can’t really output HDMI, DVI and other formats easily to the TV, so downloading today’s movies and HD content will not be easy.

He reminded the assembled audience of CE manufacturers and retailers that “flat-screen TVs, HDTVs are in living rooms nationwide. We are changing the viewing habits for every household in America. Everyone checks their e-mail and looks at the Web via broadband, which is cool, but when I’m done I get a beer, stick my hand in my jeans and watch the game on my HDTV.”

Concerning the handheld video experience Cuban noted, “Kids have a cellphone in one hand and an iPod in the other, but when they really want to watch a game they put that down and go to an HDTV.“

As a content provider, what Cuban wants from the CE business is to “connect right to the TV. You should design TVs where you are the media server and get rid of Microsoft and Apple out of there. Offer the navigation guides and the content with your TV.”

Cuban describes himself as being against digital rights management (DRM) when it comes to programming he produces for HDNet and calls Macrovision on DVDs “a waste of money.”

He advised that movie studios should not favor online delivery services on price over their traditional retailers. “Of course Wal-Mart has been complaining about that with DVD, but like any CE category they will eventually be able to get the price they want. You worry about the little guy because you put them a disadvantage” during a time when distribution of content is changing.

He thinks that content law has gone “way too far” when the rights of a book, movie or song can be held “until after the person is dead plus 1,000 years. It’s way too much. We need more material in the public domain for society to gain common knowledge.” And about the issue of suing consumers who abuse content rights, Cuban said, “Sue the sites, not the people. You’re extorting $3,000 [in fines] from kids and grandmothers? That’s not right.”

Following up on Cuban’s recent comments on being wide open to content lawsuits, Shapiro asked him about Google’s purchase of the Web site. “I think it’s a mistake. It’s easy to build a business on stolen goods.” As for any advice he’d give to YouTube’s owners at this point, Cuban cracked, “Just sell it and run! And they did. My advice to Google is that they are going to use a lot of lawyers.”

Still, Cuban pointed out that Google does respect content rights and that when it officially takes YouTube over that Google might impose that policy on its new purchase.