Jim Berry piled up a considerable hotel tab the last two years while attending the Consumer Electronics Association’s hi-def briefings. But the CEA’s media spokesperson believes the results have been worth the reimbursements his organization has had to lay out. Berry has participated in 20 of CEA’s 25 hi-def briefings held in each of the top 25 markets, the purpose of which was to bring together major broadcasters, cable operators, DBS reps and retailers to analyze HD trends and hash out ways to accelerate consumer acceptance. The last briefing was held in New York City early last month. When the CEA hotel encounters began in spring 2002, broadcasters were sour on the cable industry, Berry recalls. "[Operators] didn’t come to these meetings, and the TV station officials had a lot of discussion about how operators weren’t carrying their HD signals." He attributes cable’s absence in part to HD being unavailable in the areas where the early meetings took place. "Cable wasn’t engaged in this, to some extent, because broadcasters didn’t deliver much HD," Berry says. Cable industry reps started coming later that year, and demonstrated resolve to include broadcasters and retailers in their HD plans. "Operators like Comcast and Time Warner are promoting HD and DVRs as big selling points for their digital tiers," Berry says. Operators are in position to generate new revenue streams off HD, such as sales of dual-tuner digital video recorders, he says. "And there’s all the HD channels national and regional cable services are offering…In the end, people don’t buy the boxes—they buy the programs." Even so, a lot of fence mending needs to be done among cable systems, broadcasters and retailers, from HD distribution issues to making plug-and-play work, Berry says. What role CEA will play in those issues isn’t clear yet. "All we know is what’s next is more education for everyone," he says. For sure, the next hotel Berry will visit will be in Las Vegas, which will play host next month to more than 120,000 International CES attendees.

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