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A Conversation with HDNet’s Mark Cuban on the future of HDTV  Print E-mail
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Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Thursday, 01 November 2001

Mark Cuban may be the only person you and I can think of who not only made billions of dollars in the dotcom boom but actually kept it. Upon selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo, he bucked up for the Dallas Mavericks NBA franchise, immediately adding an enthusiasm and an air of success that Cuban is famous for in all of his ventures.

Now that Cuban has the Mavericks making the playoffs, he is back to his entrepreneurial ways with a new sports-driven HDTV network on DirecTV called HDNet (channel 199). HDNet broadcasts high-quality, native HDTV programming, including live NHL and regular season baseball games, along with upcoming Olympic coverage, extreme sports and much more. With Cuban’s touch for turning new technology into gold, AudioRevolution.com wants to see what he sees for HDTV. Here is what he has to say…

AudioRevolution: At what point did you realize that HDTV was going to be your next play after Broadcast.com and buying the Dallas Mavericks?

-Mark Cuban: I started looking into HD while still at Broadcast.com. As prices on TV sets started to fall rapidly, I knew it was just a question of time until HDTV became mainstream and in every home. When I realized that the major networks, other than CBS, weren’t moving into it aggressively, I saw it as a chance, and really got into it last year.

AR: What were the most significant obstacles to getting an HDTV network launched on DirecTV? Seemingly, the powers-that-be there have been more interested in local broadcasts over high definition. How did you convince them to give you the needed bandwidth?

MC: [The biggest problem was] finding content that is affordable relative to the audience size. DirecTV was aggressive in working with us. They quickly saw the opportunity and value to their subscribers and they have been great to work with.

AR: How much more bandwidth is available for other HDTV channels before GM-Hughes needs to launch another satellite?

MC: Probably just one more, but they have plans to launch the next satellite in January 2002.

-AR: According a CEA report, over 300,000 HDTV sets were sold in Q2 2001. Do you think there are enough sets and enough demand to make HDTV a high priority for the satellite providers and/or the broadcasters? At what level will HDTV become a force that mainstream broadcasters will have to deal with? Will it be 2006 as mandated or will it take longer?

MC: People used numbers like that regarding the net as well. The only missing link is a lower-cost HDTV receiver, which will come. I personally don’t want it to become a high priority for other providers and broadcasters. The market is going to happen with or without them. So ‘without them’ means more market share for me! I don’t know if we give Spectrum back by 2006, but I do know that long before then, HD will be expected by enough households to have a huge impact on ratings and negatively impact those who don’t broadcast in HD.

AR: Clearly, sports is the driving force behind HDNet. How important will quality sports broadcasts be to luring in non-videophiles to the HDTV consumer arena?

-MC: Very. When people start seeing it in the sports bars [whose proprietors] are buying HD sets in bunches now to show our programming, they will want it for themselves. As people start seeing us in the stores and realizing there is more programming available, [HDNet] will also start luring in mainstream customers. By the way, we are seeing this effect already. I’m getting lots of email from people who saw they saw HDNet at a friend’s place or at a store, and they had to have it, went to the store and bought it the next day!

AR: At this point, the majority of the programming on the HDTV channels is converted - scaled and native to 1080I. What is your take on that? On HDNet and PBS, you get lots of high-quality HDTV content, but other terrestrial feeds are lesser quality. Do you think that will be a big issue for new HDTV converts?

MC: Yes, all HDTV has is quality. Upconverting is a waste of time. It is like playing music in mono.

AR: At what point do you see big dollar, national advertisers being interested in HDTV?

MC: They are now.

AR: In a perfect world, where money wasn't an object, what are the five shows or events you'd most like to see on HDNet?

MC: I am happy with what we have. Maybe the NBA and NFL , but that’s it.

AR: What is the strangest thing you have watched in HDTV just because it was in
HDTV?

MC: Touched By An Angel on CBS.





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