S-AS DIGITAL RALLY Touts Set-Top Orders from Seven MSOs


Scientific-Atlanta Inc. still wants to be a contender inthe digital set-top drama, and it rebounded last week with orders from seven NorthAmerican cable operators.

The takers for S-A's Explorer 2000 digital set-topswere Adelphia Communications Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Marcus Cable and MediaOne inthe United States, as well as Canadian operators Rogers Cablesystems Ltd., Videotron Ltee.and Cogeco Cable Inc.

S-A declined to discuss order specifics, saying only thatits combined order load for its Explorer 2000 digital, two-way set-top now sits at 850,000units. That number includes the 550,000 digital boxes previously ordered by Time WarnerCable and a still-unspecified amount from Comcast Corp.

After subtracting Time Warner's previously announcedorder, the seven operators -- none of which would publicly discuss their specific S-Aorder levels -- will divvy up a remainder of 300,000 set-tops.

Tom Rhinelander, an analyst with the Yankee Group,characterized S-A's news as a tactic to say, 'Hey, look at me: I'm stillrelevant.'

That's because S-A's rival, NextLevel SystemsInc. (soon to become General Instrument Corp.), grabbed headlines over the last month with15 million digital units ordered by a large MSO consortium, while partnering withconsumer-electronics giant Sony Electronics Corp.

'I think it's mainly a response to what'sbeen going on with GI -- S-A is saying,'Don't forget us. We can't bespecific right now, but we're doing something different here,'' Rhinelandersaid.

What's different is S-A's aggressivetime-to-market shipment schedule, which begins this summer. NextLevel's boxes, bycontrast, aren't due to hit the streets en masse until sometime next year.

Bob Van Orden, director of digital product marketing forS-A, said last week that the orders, while cloaked in terms of quantity, 'show thatwe have nine MSOs, which serve 33 million subscribers, in 25 major metro areas.'

That's proof that 'the notion that one partywalked away with the market is not true,' he added.