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Two TV Makers Prepare Cable-Ready Launches

Despite the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) delay in approving a base-level cable interoperability agreement, two consumer electronics manufacturers are moving forward with plans to deliver the first digital-cable-ready HDTV sets this fall.

Panasonic and Hitachi announced plans earlier this year to have cable-ready fully integrated HDTV sets by the 2003 holiday season.

“I don’t know that there is any contingency that we are waiting for from the FCC,” said Cathy Lasorsa, Panasonic national TV marketing manager. “Our people in Washington have not told me there is anything going on that won’t allow this to happen. We are working with our factory and September receipts are in the plans.”

By October, Panasonic plans to introduce fully integrated digital-cable-ready CRT rear-projection HDTV sets in the 47W-inch and 53W-inch screen sizes at expected street prices of $2,200 and $2,400, respectively. In December, the company will add a pair of LCD-based rear-projection cable-ready integrated HDTV sets in the 50W-inch and 60W-inch screen sizes at expected street prices of $4,000 and $5,000, respectively. The models will also be among the first sets to include the new HDMI digital interface, Lasorsa said.

The company plans to offer digital-cable-ready fully-integrated HDTV sets in direct-view LCD and plasma models early in 2004.

Executives with Hitachi said they are still planning to offer a pair of digital-cable-ready fully integrated HDTV sets in October.

Hitachi’s models include a 65W-inch CRT-based rear-projection set at a $4,499.99 suggested retail and a 57W-inch version ($3,999.99). Both include IEEE-1394 with DTCP and DVI with HDCP digital interfaces.

As this went to press, Panasonic’s Lasorsa said her company was negotiating with cable operators and retailers to have CableCARDs in key territories to support the launch.

“We are working with a couple of different cable companies to do some tie-ins with retailers,” Lasorsa said. “We are trying to work with them on the simplification message” for digital-cable-ready TVs.

She said that ongoing launch discussions included the following regions:

  • Comcast’s Minneapolis and Oregon markets, where CableCARDs based on Motorola security technology would be deployed.
  • COX’s Peniscola, Fla., market, where Scientific-Atlanta CableCARDs would be deployed.
  • COX’s Orange County, Calif., market, where Motorola CableCARDs would be deployed.
  • Time Warner Cable’s Minneapolis and San Diego markets, where Scientific-Atlanta security cards would be deployed.

“Those markets using the Scientific-Atlanta systems would probably launch in the November-December timeframe, while the Motorola markets would go in October,” she said. “We are still working with them, and it looks like it will start out with field trials on CableCARDs first, and from there we are looking to tie in with local retailers.”

Pansonic plans to announce formal plans for the sets at the upcoming CEDIA show, she said.