The HD/DTV Guide

Over the years, both consumer-electronics and broadcast industries have tried to educate the public about HDTV and DTV. Too often, their efforts only added to the confusion. That changes Oct. 4, when Web site goes live. Launched by Decisionmark, the site is co-sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Consumer Electronics "Association (CEA), the broadcast networks and Sinclair Broadcasting. Jack Perry, Decisionmark president and CEO, spoke with Ken Kerschbaumer about the Web site and its attempt to make buying DTV easy.

How did you get the NAB and CEA to come on board?

We're members of both organizations, and we initially went to CEA and pitched them the idea. They liked it and agreed to lend their support and HD expertise. About a month later, we met with NAB. They saw the site and saw that it could help broadcasters. So they signed on, as well. As for how we did it? We're just some nice guys from Iowa.

How does this site compare with previous similar efforts?

This site focuses on answering the basic question of what DTV is. Perhaps more importantly, it tells visitors what content and options are available for their household. We took the same technology behind our Titan TV program guide and built it in. It lets them know what they can get over the air and via cable and how they can receive those services.

Will this help consumers see the differences between digital cable, digital television and HDTV?

Yes. It's broken down into three sections. The first is what is DTV, and it has definitions and information from CEA, including a frequently-asked-questions section. We already brought in a couple of focus groups and turned them loose on our site. We tracked how they went through the process of first hearing about digital and then how they used our site. We learned that, if we can give them the basics and a sandbox, they could peruse on their own. Ultimately, they'd get to step three, which is going to buy.

What is their biggest area of misunderstanding?

A number of people thought they were already watching DTV. That's because they saw the "Brought to you in HDTV" message on programming. They just assumed it meant them. Also, people that had HBO-HD thought boxing matches and non-HD content were in HD because they had the HD service.

Does that mean broadcasters shouldn't have those messages?

They should continue to do it. We brought this into existence to augment that message.

This site will obviously help visitors understand the reality of HD. But how should local stations and retailers work together for future education?

When we talk to the various stations, they want to make sure their local retailers are listed. Any retailer can sign up. Once we verify they're a legitimate retailer, their address and information will be made available to site visitors that live in their area. The big question is: How do we get the local retailers to put up a big antenna and show the content direct? I don't know how we get to that step.