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CTAM, CEA Team Up to Market High Def

Boston— Cable marketers have reached an agreement with the Consumer Electronics Association to team up on a project to educate consumers about the cut-off of analog broadcasting in 2009.

The agreement, announced by CEA president Gary Shapiro last Monday (July 17) here at the CTAM Summit, is noteworthy, considering Shapiro has stated previously that the quality of programming delivered by DVD players was incentive enough for consumers to buy HDTVs.

“We believe we have to educate people to make them understand what HDTV is,” Shapiro said on a panel that also included HDNet CEO Mark Cuban.

“We think HDTV is ready for primetime. It’s not just about great sets — it’s about great programming,” Shapiro said last Monday.

Previously, Shapiro had maintained that a connection to a cable or satellite DBS programming package wasn’t necessary in order for consumers to enjoy HDTVs, which typically cost more than $1,000 apiece.

Cuban, owner of the first U.S. networks dedicated to HDTV programming, cheered the agreement between the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing and CEA to market and educate consumers about the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

“Every little bit helps,” Cuban said. “It’s not a question of when high definition is ubiquitous. It’s a question of when,” Cuban said.

Earlier at the luncheon session, Rainbow Media president Josh Sapan told audience members that video is the most valuable product in the triple-play packages sold by cable distributors.

“It’s infrequent that you would hear your kid say, 'I got a dial tone from my VoIP — it’s fabulous.’ Or, 'Mom, my high-speed connection is on.’ Where you would get some to say, 'I just turned on my television set, and it’s fantastic,’ ” Sapan said.

Sapan spent most of his time touting Rainbow’s Voom HD Networks unit, which has had difficulty securing cable distribution, including a slot on Rainbow parent Cablevision Systems Corp. Voom’s largest affiliate is EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network direct-broadcast satellite service.