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NTCA’s Sachs Pledges Digital TV Cooperation

In the days following Panasonic’s signing of a limited version of the POD Host Interface License Agreement (PHILA) with CableLabs, the president of the National Cable Television Association (NTCA) called for continued “intra-industry cooperation” to move digital TV forward.

Speaking at a recent Maximum Service Television Digital TV Conference here, Robert Sachs, NTCA president, said “our industry is committed to working with broadcasters and consumer electronics retailers to market and promote digital TV. Notwithstanding whatever policy differences we may have, it’s vital that we cooperate in the marketplace.”

The nation’s leading cable operators, building on a voluntary commitment they made to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, currently are introducing high-definition television tiers in cities across the country to provide even more choices to consumers, Sachs said.

He cited HDTV launches by major cable operators including Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Charter as evidence of cable’s commitment to the digital transition.

He said his industry has spent some $65 billion to upgrade cable plants to digital since 1996.

On the content end, cable programmers including HBO, Showtime, ESPN, Discovery, Madison Square Garden Network and Comcast SportsNet, have all begun to offer HDTV channels.

Sachs said, “Market forces are driving” the trend to digital. “HDTV is key, not only to the broadcast digital TV transition, but to cable’s future growth. HDTV will bolster our competitiveness with DBS and enhance our value proposition to consumers.”

Touching on the Panasonic PHILA agreement, Sachs said the cable industry is “very desirous of encouraging manufacturers” to build “plug-and-play” digital TVs. He added that CableLabs, an industry R&D consortium, has published hardware and software specifications for vendors to build “plug-and-play” TVs.