When it comes to selling high-def, it’s not just about the giant plasma screen these days. "I think an inversion is happening where content matters more than the hardware," Circuit City evp, chief merchandising officer Douglas Moore told a lunch at CTAM Summit. "Our job is not just to talk about hardware, but the accessories, services and software that goes with it." Programmers on the panel agreed, warning cable that it should carve out an HD niche for itself. "You have a chance to take ownership of [HD] customers right now," HDNet’s Mark Cuban said. If a salesman is pitching DBS and cable, which sounds better—7 channels of HD or 17 channels, he asked. Rainbow pres/CEO Josh Sapan, whose Voom HD channels have no cable carriage, agreed that it would be wise for cable to take a leadership position. But he acknowledged that "there probably is not the crushing urgency in this quarter’s numbers to make it happen." He urged the industry to think long term. Sapan, who keynoted the event, told the crowd that video plays the most central and sustainable role in the triple-play bundle because of its emotional appeal. Panelists also said HD buying patterns are moving well beyond the young-male early adopter. An HD set no longer means "a large boulder with a screen," said Moore, with sleek, flat-panel models helping to draw in women who increasingly make HD decisions. CEA is also working with AARP because the wider screens and clarity are popular with older people with vision loss, said CEA pres/CEO Gary Shapiro. "This is everybody," Moore said of HD. Cuban called for discarding the old color-black and white HD analogy, and instead comparing HD to FM radio stations, and SD to AM: "The nets that don’t [go to HD] are going to be in a standard definition ghetto in the future."

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