Atlanta -- Scientific-Atlanta Inc. bolstered its
digital-video position last week, locking in a deployment with one MSO and doubling an
order from another.
Cox Communications Inc. picked S-A last Thursday to supply
the digital set-tops that it will use in its San Diego system. Initially, Cox will buy
15,000 of S-A's Explorer 2000 digital set-tops and related headend equipment, said
Alex Best, senior vice president of engineering for the MSO.
Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable agreed to double its order
with S-A, to a total of 1.1 million units, not including "options" to increase
the order to 1.6 million set-tops.
James Chiddix, chief technical officer for Time Warner,
said he remains confident that S-A's Explorer 2000 "is the only advanced digital
set-top in production that meets Pegasus and OpenCable requirements."
(S-A is also the prime contractor for Pegasus, Time
Warner's digital-video platform.)
"We're now increasing our order and intensifying
preparation for 1998 deployment of digital services to our subscribers," Chiddix
S-A executives said engineers are currently on-site in San
Diego, gearing up for a summertime launch of digital video by integrating headend systems
with Cox's on-site business systems, interactive-program-guide-data providers and
Mike Harney, vice president and general manager of
S-A's Digital Video Systems unit, said, "This is a major cable operator, a major
market and a major endorsement."
He added that Cox "made more than a set-top decision
-- it made a long-term investment in a future-ready, end-to-end, two-way network."
Cox is using Tele-Communications Inc.'s Headend in the
Sky service to receive packages of compressed digital-video content.
Cox and Time Warner are two of nine U.S. and Canadian cable
operators planning deployments of S-A's Explorer 2000 line this year.
S-A's news coincided with its third-quarter earnings,
also released last Thursday. The company reported a 4 percent increase over last
year's net earnings for the same period, or a lift from $16.5 million (21 cents per
share) to $17.1 million (22 cents per share).
S-A's third-quarter sales of $288.7 million decreased
4 percent compared with $301.7 million the prior year, reflecting what the company called
continued weakness in Asian and some European markets, which was partially offset by a 15
percent increase in U.S. sales.
Jim McDonald, CEO for S-A, said the quarter "marked a
major milestone ... as we began deployment of the industry's first advanced IP
[Internet-protocol] digital interactive networks."
He said that so far, S-A has shipped nine digital systems
to "major cities around the United States and Canada," and he expects
deployments to accelerate next quarter.