An expanded Web version of segments seen on CNN
Cable companies aim to lure public with 'magic boxes'
May 7, 1998
Combined TV/computer modem
Web posted at: 1:04 p.m. EDT (1704 GMT)
ATLANTA (CNN) -- The National Cable TV Convention, under way
this week in Atlanta, reveals a noticeable push by cable
In an attempt to brush up their battered customer service
image and to fight off competition from satellite
broadcasters, cable companies are turning to improved
multi-media services and increased programming selection.
The trend was much in evidence at the convention in Atlanta, where representatives of the cable
industry were eager to show off their newest "magic boxes."
These powerful computer-cum-modem combos can deliver not only
hundreds of TV channels but also give customers Internet
access, phone service, and instant pay-per-view (also known
as "video on demand").
"They'll be able to bring movies when you want them (and)
information when you need it," said Michael T. Harney of
Scientific-Atlanta Corp. 310K/7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
The new "set-top" computers have simple interfaces like this compass, top, and scroll-through menus
The new set-top computers are so powerful and versatile that
they may be the only computers a lot of families will ever
need to buy, analysts say.
However, the boxes will not act like traditional computers,
since they have simple interfaces in the form of, say, a
navigation compass or scroll-through menus.
"You can't just replicate a computer model or it's going to
fail. So that's a challenge," Digital Network Systems' Dave
Robinson told CNN. 355K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
The cable industry hopes that the relatively low cost of the
new technology will help attract more customers. Prices have
dropped from an original $5,000 to $300.
The industry admits that, despite what it considers to be an
attractive price, it first has to repair its reputation for
poor customer service.
|Dave Robinson of Digital Network Systems highlights the benefits of digital cable|
But Robinson was optimistic and predicted that cable
companies would succeed in bettering their tattered public
New channel operators are waiting in the wings to join the
high-capacity digital cable of the future. The Puppy Channel
is one of them: all puppies, all the time -- a broadcast that
backers say will be "relaxing" to watch.
And there is G.E.T., Gay Entertainment Television, which will
target the largely untapped gay television audience.
"If we accept the 10 percent number that is generally used to
describe the gay population, we're talking about 27 million
people," said G.E.T.'s Marvin Schwam. 157K/14 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Correspondent Rick Lockridge contributed to this report.