Idiots, Boxes

FOB-Idiots, BoxesFinally, after more than a decade of dickering, analog television will finally go dark in February. But marketers finding their way in the new digital TV landscape will find it remains far from fully lit.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says 17 million Americans still rely on analog TV, even after more than 20 years of digital cable and satellite deployments. Analog shutoff tests around the country are generating mixed results, to be kind. In Wilmington, N.C., for example, one test stranded thousands of viewers. Slightly panicked, lawmakers are hedging their bets. Democratic U.S. Rep. Louis Capps of California is introducing legislation giving a two-week "slide" period for the analog TV shutoff.

Sales for HDTV televisions meant to replace analog sets were predicted to soften as early as August. And with the worldwide economy now in a much steeper decline - and depression looming - fresh demand for digital sets is almost certain to be soft. Consumption figures for digital TV are also not clearly rendered: Standard-def and high-def TV ratings are still lumped together for most media outlets, so marketers can't tell who is watching what format. Comcast is leading an industry-wide charge to cap data consumption that hampers new video usage.

And remarkably, almost immediately after the nearly decade-long Blu-ray/HD-DVD battle ended, electronics vendors have begun to head off in still new hardware directions: 3D TV - yup, the stuff with the silly glasses - is back from the dead and is the big buzz among gadget makers. And now there's yet another hybrid video-disc format coming called XDE for eXtended Detail Enhancement, which essentially up-converts standard-def discs for HD screens. Each move fractionalizes both the early and late TV-technology adopter simultaneously - like an alienation hat trick.
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