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Set-Top Makers Plan DVD/Streaming Combos

17 Apr, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Set-top box makers are readying affordable DVD-enabled boxes for the market as early as next year.

"We could build streaming capacity into DVD players for about $70 [extra] by Christmas 2003," said Andrew Wolfe, SVP and chief technology officer for personal video recorder (PVR) maker SonicBlue.

"Equipment will get so cheap," he predicted, that set-top PVR/DVD combination boxes will cost just $75 to $100 more than either one as a stand-alone.

Cable VOD provider Intertainer will soon field test a DVD-enabled RCA set-top that will sell for about $300, CEO Jonathan Taplin said.

Present cable-based delivery systems are not robust enough because they run on technology that can only schedule 24 people per minute to start running any given program, he said, and that makes Internet delivery more attractive.

Offering DVD capacity doesn't mean VOD providers will abandon their core business. In fact, Wolfe said, household broadband penetration is sufficient to make VOD profitable.

"The number of U.S. households that have broadband is about the same as the number of households that have teenagers," he said, noting that is a significant market opportunity.

Set-top storage technology is also improving and should make PVRs more attractive to consumers, he said.

"We'll have the ability within the next two years to do a terabyte in the home," he said. "That's the equivalent of about 3,000 hours of programming."

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