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Slow But Steady DTV Rollout

Starting with FCC chairman Bill Kennard’s pronouncements about digital TV standards during CES in January, this has been a contentious year for a market that everyone hoped would have blossomed by now. Raised voices, finger waving, saber rattling, high intrigue, low blows and other histrionics were issued by the cable, broadcast and consumer electronics industries as they all tried to get their voices heard in the ongoing fistfight over changing standards.

Sure, consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers are disappointed. They thought they’d be selling more HDTV sets and set-top boxes by now.

One thing hasn’t changed since the first broadcasts began two years ago and the first sets reached retail: Those lucky enough to see HDTV have fallen in love with it. (The problem is there still isn’t enough programming out there to see.)

The Consumer Electronics Association was nonetheless impressed with the efforts of CBS, citing it as the “Best Digital TV Network” during CEA’s first annual Academy of Digital Television Pioneers awards. (See story on p. 1.) CBS’ Raleigh, N.C. affiliate, WRAL, was honored as the Best Local DTV Broadcaster, and DirecTV was honored as the Best DTV Satellite Provider.

While not selling at the rate of millions of units yet, sales of DTV products are climbing, according to CEA numbers released earlier this month.

Retailers report that if they demonstrate DTVs adequately at the store, consumers are interested and are buying. A positive trend is that more electronics/ appliance chains are getting more involved in the category, according to a story by executive editor Greg Tarr (see p. 34).

In the expectations game, things are slower for DTV today than many had expected when sets debuted at retail two years ago. Yet, after a very contentious year, there is progress. That has to be good news for all concerned to build on now and during 2001.

Home Networking Update In This Issue

Digital home networking is going to become a sales factor at stores like yours in the near future. If you have been an attentive reader of TWICE during the past year or so, you should have received that message rather clearly by now. We issued our first wide-ranging report on the subject in our July 24 issue, which outlined the whys, wherefores, formats, potential profits and potential products of this new marketplace. This issue marks the second such foray into the near future.

Our coverage, headed by senior editor Joe Palenchar, with help from associate editor Tedra Meyer and yours truly, starts on page 1 and continues in a special section beginning on page 25. The Home Networking section will appear periodically as these products come closer and closer to market.