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TTE Plans Fall Release of $300 DTV Set

TTE Corp., the world’s largest television manufacturer under the RCA brand, is planning to release in September a digital-TV set with a built-in, over-the-air tuner for less than $300.

A 27-inch RCA prototype set was on display at a House hearing Thursday on the digital-TV transition. The unit offered a standard-definition display, with the picture quality akin to viewing a DVD on an analog set. It was not HDTV-capable.

“This year, we at RCA will introduce a new line of standard-definition television that, for the first time, will offer consumers digital TV essentially at analog prices,” TTE vice president David Arland told the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

Arland said the company planned to build to a 32-inch set for under $400.

Even though the RCA sets won’t be HDTV-ready, Arland said the $300 digital-TV sets would be “ideal for receiving multiple additional channels of standard-definition digital programming transmitted by local broadcasters.”

The House is expected to vote later this year on a bill that would terminate analog TV Dec. 31, 2006, requiring about 20 million households that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air broadcasting to acquire digital-reception equipment or subscribe to cable or satellite.

The House bill is expected to include set-top subsidies for broadcast-only homes considered low-income. The cost of the subsidy ranges from $340 million on the low end to more than $10 billion on the high end and depends on box prices and the volume that Congress decides to underwrite.

For consumers not ready to spend $300 for new digital-TV sets, Arland said, TTE would make a converter box for less than $125, but only if Congress adopts a firm date for ending the transition to digital-only broadcasting.

Arland added that the $125 price point was one-half the cost of converters currently sold at retail.