Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2003 (Revised October 2005)

High-Definition TV: The Grand Alliance

by Thomas R. Eisenmann

Abstract

Describes political and economic forces that influenced the development of an all-digital, high-definition television (HDTV) standard in the United States between 1986 and 1996. Outlines the stakes for various government and industry participants in the standard-setting process. Contrasts the market-led approach used in developing U.S. HDTV standards to the government-led processes employed in Japan and Europe, where billions of dollars were invested in R&D but the resulting analog standards were soon abandoned. Concludes with a series of unresolved policy issues facing U.S. regulators in 1996, for example, whether to intervene to resolve technical disputes between the broadcasting and computer industries, whether to mandate or simply authorize use of an HDTV standard, and whether to set specific deadlines for broadcasters' deployment of HDTV technology.

Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Investment; Policy; Management Practices and Processes; Emerging Markets; Standards; Business and Government Relations; Networks; Research and Development; Technology Adoption; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Technology Industry; Japan; Europe; United States;

Citation:

Eisenmann, Thomas R. "High-Definition TV: The Grand Alliance." Harvard Business School Case 804-103, December 2003. (Revised October 2005.)