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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for June 27, 2001


Dish Network May Combine With DirecTV - To take advantage of the synergies between satellite companies and telecommunications firms, EchoStar Communications is reaching out to telephone companies as possible partners. Such partnerships could help EchoStar finance a bid for Hughes Electronics, which has been building its own Sky Global satellite TV network. An EchoStar bid in the works is to combine their Dish Network's 5 million subscribers with DirecTV's 10 million subscribers, though some analysts say it raises anti-trust questions. Proponents of the Dish DirecTV deal say digital cable services do provide formidable competition to the satellite TV providers, and that perhaps the new satellite operation could offer a provision making their programming service available in rural areas unreachable by cable but at equal pricing to cable TV.

Interactive TV Making a Mark - The increasing popularity of the new hard drive personal video recorders and added functions to WebTV (now owned by MicroSoft) are bringing interactive television to reality. MicroSoft is spending $50 million to market their Ultimate TV recorder which can hold up to 35 hours of programming and is tied in with WebTV features. At least one model of the personal video recorders is combined with a satellite receiver for greater convenience. Some of these features are more in the category of Enhanced TV than Interactive. Most of the services feature a sort of electronic version of TV Guide to help select programs. Satellite providers have been the leaders in interactive TV, but they only serve about 15% of U.S. Homes vs. 67% for cable companies. In Europe both cable and Internet services are much less pervasive than in the U.S.

New Higher-Fidelity Digital Audio Codecs - Digital Voice Systems (DVSI) has introduced a family of audio compression technologies that can deliver higher performance music reproduction. One of the technologies is the SonaPaK Lossless Audio Compression System, which achieves approximately a 2:1 compression but can be played back with not a single bit changed compared to the original. Another DVSI technology is their High Speed Variable Bit-rate MP3 Encoder. Unlike most other MP3 encoders, it takes advantage of the variable bit-rate option while maintaining very fast execution speed. Thus it obtains better compression while maintaining highest sound quality. Both technologies are employed in the company's Lansonic Digital Audio Server.

- John Sunier

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