USDTV Makes Sense to Hisense

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HDTV-set manufacturer Hisense Co. Ltd. is quadrupling its financial commitment to U.S. Digital Television Inc., which is launching wireless cable, by agreeing to invest $60 million to make 400,000 digital set-tops for the service, officials said Wednesday.

As part of the deal, Hisense will also make a minority equity investment in USDTV, according to officials. Exact terms of the investment weren’t enclosed.

USDTV’s new service -- which has soft-launched in Salt Lake City -- uses digital bandwidth leased from TV stations to offer a multicasting service for $19.95 per month that includes local TV stations, local HDTV broadcast signals and nearly one-dozen cable networks.

Hisense’s initial commitment to USDTV was to spend $15 million to produce 100,000 set-tops for the service.

Earlier this week, USDTV said it was partnering with Dotcast Inc. and Winegard Co. to develop a compact indoor/outdoor antenna for its subscribers that improves digital and HDTV over-the-air reception.

The new antenna, which will retail for $39.95, be available to USDTV subscribers as a compact, 22-inch tube that can be unobtrusively mounted on a TV set or placed along a windowsill, balcony railing or edge of a roof. The antenna is flexible in that it can be mounted indoors or outdoors.