Despite some concerns that sluggish holiday spending could impact HD television sales, programmers at a CTAM Summit panel Sun afternoon were cautiously optimistic. "The digital conversion could spur some people [to buy HD sets], but I think the most important thing is that we’re seeing the price drop dramatically," said Tom Southwick, Starz svp public relations/govt relations. Some people are talking about 32-inch LCD sets for $350, he said. In fact, a worsening economy will probably result in huge discounts on these televisions, added Art Marquez, MLB Net svp, affil sales and marketing. His channel launches Jan 1 with everything in high-def (it will be downcoverted for the SD version). HDNet svp, marketing Bill Osborn said spreading HD isn’t a matter of educating consumers but of getting the product out there. "If you see it, you get it," he said. Panelists several times referred to Discovery‘s "Planet Earth" as the type of programming that makes people HD believers. "Programming that goes above and beyond people talk about…and it trickles down," said Rebecca Glashow, Discovery vp, digital media distribution. So, what can cable operators do to help increase the number of HD homes? Southwick suggested that cable match DBS and telcos on the number of HD nets carried and create some sort of nationwide messaging. Glashow, however, said there is a case for quality vs quantity. "It’s that the shows you want to see are in HD," she said. "You can win by focusing and putting out the right networks."

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