Digital projection TVs outsell plasma screens

Some 2.3 mln digital projection TVs were shipped in the United States in 2003, and 2.6 million are expected this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. That compares with 315,000 plasmas last year, and 515,000 seen in 2004, it said. It’s easy to understand consumer excitement about plasma. The gee-whiz technology based on supercharged gases made its debut only about 4 years ago, and combined with high-definition digital video, it produces images that appear real enough to touch. But at an average price in 2003 of $4,600 – enough for a Hawaiian vacation or a 1997 Toyota Camry – consumers often think twice. That second thought brings them to projection TVs, which also have high-resolution images, but at a more earthbound price of $1,400, on average.

Cable owns 75% of TV market, satellite – 22%

The FCC said the number of non-broadcast channels – such as HBO, CNN and ESPN – has grown from slightly more than 100 in 1994 to more than 330 in 2003. The FCC report found that cable, which had a near-monopoly 10 years ago on delivering programming to households willing to pay for it, now has 75% of the market. Satellite services have 22%. Other competitors, such as telephone companies or electric utilities, have the rest of the market. About 70.5 million households subscribe to cable; 23.7 million get satellite service. Even with the increased competition, cable rates have continued to rise faster than inflation. Congress deregulated the cable industry in 1996; over the next seven years rates increased by 53%, while inflation rose 19%.

30% hate cell phones, 25% – alarm clocks, 23% – TV

Nearly one in three (30%) adults say the cell phone is the invention they most hate but cannot live without, according to the eighth annual Lemelson-MIT Invention Index study. The cell phone narrowly beat the alarm clock (25%) and television (23%) for the distinction in the survey, which gauges Americans? attitudes toward invention. Shaving razors, microwaves, coffee pots, computers and vacuum cleaners were also cited as essential, yet despised, inventions. While the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found a vast majority of Americans (95%) believe inventions have improved the quality of life in the United States, their strong feelings toward cell phones illustrate both the benefits and unintended consequences of innovation.

Demand for HDTV tuners up

A recent ruling by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), HDTV market developments in Europe and Japan, and the planned move by Motorola to outsource STBs (set-top boxes) from Asian suppliers, could all be blessings for Taiwan?s STB makers, according to sources. Local makers are expecting an increase in demand for digital terrestrial tuner modules after the FCC said it will start requiring TVs sold in the US market to have built-in HDTV receivers from 2005.

The number of TVs bundled with HDTV receivers in the US market is likely to swell to around 47 million units by 2007, the sources quoted FCC estimates as saying. Taiwanese makers will have an advantage over competitors with their expertise drawn from manufacturing HDTV receivers for LCD, plasma and projection TVs, according to the sources. In Europe, the number of families with digital TV receivers has reached 100,000, though the market is very much in a trial period. When digital TV officially kicks off in 2004, demand for HDTV STBs is expected to swell to 500,000 units, the sources said.