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Companies Plan Integrated Offerings

Several manufacturers planned to demonstrate their compliance with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell’s digital tuner mandate by introducing fully integrated digital television sets ahead of schedule at CES.

Representatives from Panasonic, Samsung and Zenith said they planned to show DTV displays of various stripes that include internal ATSC tuners as part of their 2003 model lines.

Perhaps the most surprising twist on the theme is that some of those integrated sets will be plasma or LCD flat-panel displays. A look at integrated CES offerings follows:

Panasonic said it would introduce its first fully integrated Enhanced Definition Television (EDTV) sets in a pair of plasma display panels with ATSC tuning. Models include the 37W-inch 16:9 TH37PA20U, which will ship in August at a $4,499 suggested retail and the 42W-inch 16:9 TH42PA20U, which will ship in July at $4,999. Both will display the 480p digital broadcast format, but will down-convert HDTV signals to fit the native resolution of the panels.

Samsung will discuss one of the most extensive lineups of integrated HDTV sets yet announced. Among the show highlights will be what Samsung calls the world’s largest LCD TV — a 46W-inch TFT LCD panel. Model LTN465W ($10,999 suggested, October) will feature built-in ATSC and NTSC TV tuners, a DVI with HDCP digital input and a QAM-compatible cable tuner for unencrypted digital cable programming.

In addition Samsung will continue its jump start on the FCC’s digital tuner mandate, by re-introducing fully integrated HDTV sets in the CRT rear-projection category and adding a 30W-inch direct-view CRT model.

“We will be delivering a number of fully integrated HDTV sets [in 2003], particularly in the rear-projection segment,” said Jim Sanduski, Samsung marketing VP. “These will employ a basic integrated chassis, consisting of a basic ATSC tuner for off-air DTV broadcasts, a QAM tuner that will tune basic digital cable channels, and a DVI/HDCP interface.”

Also in the works is a “step-up integrated chassis,” which is expected to arrive in Spring 2004. It will add a POD SmartCard interface for interoperability with premium digital cable services and a home networking solution, Sanduski said.

Samsung will re-enter the fully integrated HDTV set category this year, because of the growing availability of HDTV stations and programming, the FCC’s tuner mandate, and because “we have found a way to do integrated products in a relatively inexpensive way,” Sanduski said. Samsung’s integrated rear-projection models will carry a $300 price premium over similar monitor-only models in the line, Sanduski said.

Integrated sets include entry-level and step-up models in the 55W-inch 16:9 screen size ($2,399-$2,599 suggested) shipping in May and June, respectively, and a 52W-inch model ($2,299) shipping in June. The step-up 55W-inch model (HCN559WH) is part of the Tantus dealer series and adds a built-in component shelf, 3 HD component video inputs, two NTSC tuners for split screen and PIP functions, and a 3D-Y/C digital comb filter. All models will include QAM tuning for viewing unencrypted digital cable channels without a set-top box.

Samsung will also offer a fully integrated HDTV direct-view set featuring a 30W-inch (TXN3085WHD) screen size, QAM, DVI with HDCP, two component video inputs and one NTSC tuner. It will ship in May at a $1,499 suggested retail.

Zenith also plans to show an expanded line of fully integrated HDTV sets, featuring the company’s fifth-generation 8-VSB chip set. The new chip promises further reception improvements. At CES, Zenith will introduce new integrated models in the direct view 36- and 32-inch 4:3 screen sizes and the 34W-inch 16:9 screen size, as well as a new screen size — 30W-inch. All will have flat-tube CRTs. Pricing and availability will be announced later.

In rear projection, Zenith plans to ship in the fourth quarter of 2003 a fully integrated DLP model in the 52W-inch screen size. Zenith will also offer its first fully integrated HDTV-level plasma display panels in the 50W- and 60W-inch 16:9 screen sizes. Both are slated for second half 2003 deliveries.

For its DTV monitor products, Zenith said it would introduce a new series of set-top decoder boxes featuring the next-generation chipset. Model HDSAT530 will be the successor to the current HDSAT520 combination DirecTV/ATSC decoder box, and the HDV430 will be the successor to the current HDV420 ATSC-only over-the-air DTV decoder box.

Zenith also plans to show two other ATSC set-top boxes, one of which will be a combination ATSC receiver/DVD player. The second model will be an over-the-air ATSC-only DTV decoder with a built-in hard drive capable of recording both standard and HDTV broadcast programming.