Update information about Digital TV News

This web site represents views related to home theater and its underlying technologies. The owner of this web site is not associated with any manufacturer, distributor or retail sales organization (except for the few affiliate links contained on this web site).  Every attempt has been made to provide unbiased information and ideas that others interested in building or upgrading a home theater may find useful.  Please click on the above banner ads to help support this site.

Updated 6 June 2004 —  email comments to:dtvmax.com

June 2004 Update:  Digital TV News below

  • June is the final month for U.S. sales of 36 inch or larger TVs with only an analog tuner.  Starting July 1, 2004 all TVs 36 inches or larger are required by FCC rules to include a digital TV (DTV) tuner in addition to the standard analog tuner (monitors with no tuner are still allowed).  The prices for 36 inch direct view CRT TVs without an DTV capability should drop as manufacturers and dealers clear out their inventory of analog tuner only models.

  • Columbia-TriStar Pictures have announced plans to release high definition DVDs using the Blu-ray technology for all of their new home video releases starting in early 2006.  This is consistent with the announced late 2005/early 2006 planned release of Blu-Ray DVD players and recorders.  Columbia-TriStar is owned by Sony who is one of the developer of Blu-ray.

  • DirecTV has a new satellite (designated 7s) that is going operational during June.  This new Satellite replaces the existing satellite at the 119 orbital slot and will carry local channels for additional market areas and will also add capacity for addition high definition channels.  This is the first of a new generation of DirecTV satellites with additional satellites planned for 2005 and 2006.

  • The first DirecTV HD-DVR (digital video recorder) is now available.  The TIVO HR10-250 includes a 250 MB hard drive that has the capacity to store about 30 hours of HD programming.  As previously reported this unit include 2 DirecTV tuner as well as two HD over-the-air tuners and can recorder two programs at once (any combination of DirecTV and HD over-the-air).  The retail price is $999.

  • Dish Network has been having problems with their first generation HD-DVD (model 921) and reportedly has pulled the unit off of the market.  However, Dish has announced a new HD-DVR.  The new model 942 will include two satellite tuners and one HD over-the-air tuner.  Dish is planning for a late 2004 release of the 942.

  • Zenith as released an new DVD player (model DVB318) that will scale any DVD to a 1080i (or 720p) via both DVI and component video outputs.  This $249 (retail price) player offers exception video quality, especially via the component video output at 1080i, and is an ideal match for any HDTV monitor or projector.

  • JVC should begin shipping their new D-VHS VCRs (high definition) sometime in July.  These third generation models (HM-DT100u and HM-DH5u) will feature a HDMI output (enhanced DVI), as well as component video, and the more expensive HM-DT100u model will include a built-in HD tuner while the lower priced model HM-DH5u only includes an analog tuner.  Both models include an IEEE-1394 interface that is compatible with cable TV HD set-top-boxes.  (see story below).

  • Starting April 1, 2004 all U.S. cable TV companies offering HD channels were required by Federal Regulations to supply their their customers, upon request, a HD set-top-box (STB) with a active IEEE-1394 port.  Now as of early June, many cable companies are in compliance with this federal regulation while others still have not been able to supply their customers with a compliant HD-STB.  Scientific Atlanta, one of two major HD-STB suppliers, had a firmware bug in their model 3250HD STB that incorrectly set a flag bit on the the IEEE-1394 output that indicated encryption was being used even when it was not.  This prevented D-VHS recorders from being able to record the local broadcast HD channels.  Scientific Atlanta has now released a firmware update to the cable companies that corrects this problem.  However, as of this date not all cable companies have download the updated software to the customers STBs.

  • As of the end of April Voom satellite TV service has about 8,000 customers.  Currently Voom offers more HD channels than any other supplier.  However, Voom’s customer base is growing very slowly and the future of the service is not assured.  It now appears that Voom plans to update their HD video compression method to use Microsoft’s Window Media Video 9 which will allow them to more than double their HD capacity without requiring any additional satellite capacity.

  • News Corp. who now owns DirecTV has agreed to sell the Hughes operations for the manufacture of DirecTV set top boxes to Thomson (RCA brand).  In the future it appears that most of the DirecTV STB will be manufactured my Thomson and Samsung.  Future STBs will not carry the manufacturers name, only the DirecTV name.  Also it appears that DirecTV is strongly considering a major technical update to their service that would involve the use of a more efficient modulation technique and a more advanced video compression scheme.  If both upgrades were implemented the current and planned satellites could handle up to 5 times the number of channels and/or add capacity for a major increase in the number of HD channels offered.  In order to do this DirecTV would have to replace all of their customer’s STBs and this will be very expensive.  DirecTV may decided to only do the upgrades for HD channels and thus limit the number of STBs they will need to replace.


The news items from April 2004 appear below

  • April 1, 2004 was the deadline for cable TV companies that offer high definition (HD) service to provide, at the customer’s request, a HD set top box (STB) that includes a functional IEEE 1394 (i.e. firewire) interface port.  This high speed digital interface will allow the customer to connect the cable STB to a HD recorder (i.e., D-VHS or a future HD-DVD recorder) or to a HD monitor that includes an IEEE 1394 port (e.g., Mitsubishi).  While some cable TV companies are aware of this FCC rule [47 CFR part 76 section 76.640 (b) (4) (i)] others are clueless.  If you have HD service from your cable TV company and would like to be able to record HD programming then you should call your cable company and request an upgrade to your STB.  In some cases this means replacing your existing HD STB with a newer model while in other cases the cable company only will need to download a firmware upgrade to your HD STB.

  • As of July 1, 2004 all TV sets of 36 inch or larger are required by FCC rules to include a digital TV (DTV) tuner in addition to the standard analog tuner (monitors with no tuner are still allowed).  The prices for 36 inch direct view CRT TVs without an DTV capability has recently fallen as a result of the manufacturers attempting to clear out their soon to be obsolete models.

  • Sony has displayed [at the recent Cebit exhibition in Hanover, Germany] a prototype HD camcorder supporting the 1080i HD format.  No price or availability date was announced.  The Sony HD camcorder will use DV video tape use the HD recording format that has been agreed by a group of Japanese companies (including JVC).  Currently JVC offers the only camcorder claiming HD capability.  Although the JVC really cannot provide the fully 720p HD resolution claimed by JVC,  it is better than standard definition camcorders.  Hopefully the Sony camcorder will use a CCD imaging chip supporting full 1080i HD resolution.

  • The plans for the introduction of Blu-Ray high definition DVDs is becoming more firm.  It now appears that we can expect to see the introduction of both hardware (Sony, Philips, Samsung, etc.) and software (major Hollywood movies) in late 2005 or early 2006.  It will be interesting to see if the competing high definition DVD (HD-DVD) format being supported by another group of manufactures (Toshiba, NEC, etc.) and approved by the DVD Forum, will be able to beat Blu-Ray to market.

  • The first HD DirecTV TiVO digital video recorders (model HR10-250) are due to begin shipping to dealers during mid-to-late April.  These $999 (retail) units are expected to be in short supply for the first couple of months.

The news items from March 2004 appear below

  • Sony has announced a new line of 12 models of HDTVs with built-in digital cable ready tuners.  Sony’s press release indicates:  “The new HDTV sets range in screen sizes from 30- to 60-inch models in the FD Trinitron® WEGA® direct-view CRT, Grand WEGA™ microdisplay LCD and the CRT rear projection television categories.”

  • Sony has also announced two new high definitional digital video recorders (DVRs).  The DHG-HDD100 ($700) and DHG-HDD200 ($800) features include:  HDMI digital video output (backwards compatibility to DVI), component video output for connection to many high-definition TVs, electronic program guide (EPG),  standard-definition analog outputs for connection to analog TVs or VCRs, and Dolby Digital 5.1 support.

  • The Consumer Electronics Association figures for 2004 U.S. sales (from manufacturers to dealers) of non-digital projection TVs shows that sales have virtually vanished.  Or expressed another way, virtually all projection TVs sold since the beginning of 2004 are digital TV and practically all of those are high definition capable (most are HD ready and a less number have built-in HD tuners).

  • DirecTV has been requesting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allow then to down-rez (reduce picture resolution provided via component video outputs) for certain programs that would not be allowed under the current FCC ‘plug and play’ rule.  It appears that DirecTV fears that the movie studio will hold back some of the more popular movies unless the high definition outputs are copy protected and provided only via digital outputs (DVI/HDCP or the newer HDMI).  The Consumer Electronics Associated (a trade group of electronics manufacturers) want the FCC to keep the ‘plug and play’ rule as it now stands (i.e. not allowing down-rezzing via either cable TV for satellite providers).

  • The launch of a new DirecTV satellite that was planned for February to the April 2004 timeframe.  This will delay the expansion of the local TV markets for a few months and also delay the anticipated introduction of additional HD channels on DirecTV.

  • Dish Network has a $999 offer that includes a HD satellite/over the air set top box plus a choice of a 40 inch HD projector or a 34 inch direct view HDTV.  Click here for more information.  Also Dish Network has been shipping their new Model 921 ($999) HD set top box with built-in digital video recorder.

  • The introduction of RCA’s new HD step top box, model DTC210, has been delayed and is now expected to start arriving at dealers during March.  This STB will retail for $599 and include a DirecTV HD receiver as well as support over the air HD reception.  Click here to download the DTC210 owner’s manual (in Acrobat pdf format).

  • The DVD Forum, and electronics industry body that set the standards for the current standard definition DVDs, has approved a HD-DVD-R/W (read/write) format to joins the previously approved HD-DVD-R format.  This is a blue laser format that is in direct competition with the Blu-ray format being promoted by smaller group of manufacturers (e.g., Sony, Philips, etc.).  This is heading toward a format war equivalent to the VHS vs. Beta format war of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  It looks like we will indeed have two different high definition DVD formats and the winner will probably be decided by which format can offer the most software (major movies).

  • The Voom satellite TV service has now expanded it offering to 30 high definition channels.  Voom is also offering lower initial costs for the required dish and set top boxes.