The fourth quarter is the busiest time of the year for sales of high-definition television sets. Many consumer electronics retailers will look to the holiday selling period as a key time to move hi-def sets. Cable and satellite operators will do their part to help drive sales.
The Consumer Electronics Association predicts that sales of hi-def sets should reach 20.7 million for 2007 by year-end. That’s an increase from 17.3 million in 2006. From the start of 1998 through the end of this year, CEA said, about 60.6 million sets have been sold.
The association also conducts an annual wish list and gift-giving survey. This year the top five wish-list items for adults are computers, peace and happiness, a big-screen TV, clothes and money.
Cable and satellite operators are engaged in a number of promotions to market hi-def services. Here’s a look at what key operators are doing.
- Time Warner Cable is marketing its hi-def content via a direct-mail program in 10 of its markets, offering a $150 mail-in rebate at Best Buy stores.
In addition, the operator is offering a $100 mail-in rebate program with ShopNBC and HSN. ShopNBC is e-mailing all Time Warner Cable customers who buy a hi-def TV with the offer during the holiday season. When customers sign up or upgrade to hi-def, they are eligible for a mail-in rebate. HSN is sending its offer to all Time Warner customers who have purchased a TV in the past six months, and the offer runs until the Super Bowl. When they upgrade to hi-def, they are eligible for a mail-in rebate.
Time Warner is offering a $150 mail-in rebate at Circuit City stores when consumers sign up for hi-def and purchase a new hi-def set that is 30 inches or larger.
- On the satellite front, EchoStar is offering its hi-def DVR along with HD programming for free for the first six months. After six months, the programming costs $20 a month and the DVR about $6.
- Comcast has been promoting the availability of HD movies via video-on-demand, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday. Current VOD titles such as “We Are Marshall,” “Evan Almighty” and “Blades of Glory” are available in hi-def on VOD. The operator also offers a wide selection of free movies in hi-def.
- Cox said it is working to strengthen its overall HD marketing, including on the Internet, where consumers often research HD providers. Cox said it plans to offer new hi-def channels as soon as they become available.
Cox will have the capacity for 50 channels of HD in each market by year end. The operator plans to keep ramping up capacity in 2008. In addition, Cox has begun using switched digital video in some markets, which should enable even more capacity to add new channels.
Cox also is working with all of its retail partners to promote the cabler’s hi-def offering. At Circuit City, Cox has started a program that offers $100 instant savings on a hi-def set when the consumer signs up for Cox Digital Cable. “We are interested in delivering the best-quality HD content that is the most relevant for delivery in high definition,” said David Grabert, a spokesman for the operator.
- Cablevision is similarly focused on promoting the number of channels it offers. Most recently, the New York-based operator added CNN HD to its lineup on Nov. 7. Cablevision now offers 42 channels in hi-def and does not charge extra for those channels. If a customer gets a channel as part of his level of cable service, and Cablevision offers the channel in HD, the customer receives the HD version without paying anything more. Cablevision also does not charge extra for HD set-top boxes.
In the past year, Cablevision has nearly doubled the number of HD channels it offers. At the end of September, Cablevision had nearly 900,000 HD customers, an increase of 71% from the previous year. In addition, the operator’s HD VOD service includes more than 30 titles per month in hi-def. Cablevision continues to market its hi-def services using the “Do You See in HD?” ads it first launched in 2006.