Skip to main content

Cablevision Denies Sony Rumors

Cablevision Systems Corp. denied rumors Friday that it was backing away from
its $1 billion commitment to buy digital-cable boxes from Sony Electronics
Corp.

A competing set-top-box manufacturer allegedly floated the rumor at the
National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas earlier this
week.

When contacted for comment, Cablevision executive vice president of
technology Wilt Hildenbrand said the rumors reached his desk Thursday, when he
received three calls from Motorola Inc. executives trying to pitch him digital
boxes if indeed Cablevision was dropping Sony.

While Hildenbrand could not identify the source of the rumors, he suggested
that 'jilted suitors' started them.

'If you could think up anything further from the truth, I would give you $1
million -- no, I would give you the $1 billion we're paying Sony for the boxes,'
Hildenbrand said of the rumor.

'We can control the rumor stuff by launching the service, which we will,' he
added.

Hildenbrand said the Sony technology was still ready for a June deployment
and there was no truth to talk that technical problems with the boxes were
behind the consumer rollout being pushed back to this fall.

There are more than 100 set-top boxes in the field on Long Island, N.Y.

Cablevision will pay Sony for boxes on delivery according to its standard
business agreement, Hildenbrand said. The fact that Cablevision is a little
later taking delivery than originally scheduled may help Sony to save production
costs as the prices of digital components go down over time, he added.

Sony spokesman Mack Araki also confirmed Friday that Sony still plans to
provide Cablevision with its digital set-tops.

Some industry observers said they were highly skeptical that Cablevision
would scrap the Sony-based system considering how much time and money the MSO
has invested in its development so far.

On top of that, Cablevision will use a unique digital system comprised of
DiviCom Inc. headends (now owned by Harmonic Inc.) and a conditional-access
system based on NDS Group plc technology, making it incompatible with boxes made
by the largest U.S. cable set-top suppliers, Motorola Broadband Communications
Sector and Scientific-Atlanta Inc.

A move in that direction would only delay Cablevision's digital rollout
further.

Steve Donohue and Mike Farrell contributed to this
report.