y'all see this? interesting...
DirecTV Introduces $99 HDTV Deals
_BY SHIRLEY BRADY
Cable World,_Aug 14 2003
HDTV sales could get a healthy boost this NFL season if a test by DirecTV and select retailers goes nationwide.
Starting this week, DirecTV's HD equipment is available on a limited basis for an up-front lease cost of $99.99 for a stand-alone DirecTV HD receiver, a DirecTV multi-satellite dish antenna and professional installation.
The limited offer to lease DirecTV's HD equipment excludes hi-def programming and was launched this week in "a very, very, very limited test market that we're doing in conjunction with DirecTV," according to a spokesman for Circuit City.
According to a source close to DirecTV, the Circuit City $99 HD lease test will be followed by a limited test in a Best Buy market on Sept. 7. That's the same day CBS Sports kicks off its 44th season of NFL broadcasts with The NFL Today, its pregame studio show, followed by a full slate of seven games in week one.
First-time DirecTV subscribers can also now lease the $99.99 DirecTV equipment package online.
The special launched this week on the American Satellite website, which is offering a DirecTV HDTV receiver and off-air antenna dish for a $99.99 up-front cost in six markets to start: Las Vegas, Charlotte, N.C., Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Dallas, and Tampa, Fla.
After paying $99.99 up front, a monthly lease fee of $10 kicks in. Customers must also sign up for the Total Choice Plus programming package with locals for $39 and pay another $10.99 monthly for DirecTV's HD programming package of ESPN HD, Discovery HD Theater, HDNet and HDNet Movies, bringing the monthly total to $60.98.
The offer applies to a whole home package only; customers may not use cable service in the home with DirecTV as their HD service. Customers can lease up to three additional receivers for an up-front cost of $49 each plus $4.99 per receiver for HD programming.
The Circuit City spokesman declined to confirm the terms of its DirecTV HD equipment lease test and referred any additional questions to DirecTV. A DirecTV spokesperson wasn't aware of the limited market tests and declined to comment.
The low-priced leases could tempt prospective buyers experiencing sticker shock over the price of HDTV sets-which can cost from $750 to more than $10,000-to test-drive the product.
DirecTV retailers are also offering a competitive sales offer to lure HD subs.
Good Guys and Ultimate Electronics are currently selling a $399 DirecTV HD equipment package (after a $100 mail-in rebate) that includes an HD receiver, dish and professional installation.
Ultimate Electronics is offering that in-store deal with a $50 gift card to new DirecTV subscribers until Oct. 17. A salesman at an Ultimate Electronics store in Las Vegas said he could drop the deal's price to $299 post-rebate (for a Hughes E86 HD receiver plus a satellite receiver and installation) if the customer also purchased an HDTV set in addition to signing up for the lease.
Cox Communications charges cable customers in Las Vegas about $120 a year to lease its HDTV equipment ($9.95 a month for an HDTV converter and 22 cents a month for an HDTV remote) plus $49.95 for installation if they already own a 1080i HDTV-ready set. The customer must already be a digital cable subscriber, while a package of HD programming featuring Discovery HD Theater and ESPN HD costs $6.99 (or $5 for either one) monthly. Cox's HBO and Showtime subscribers receive those HD feeds with their premium subscriptions.
Also partnered with Ultimate Electronics in Las Vegas, Cox in that market is offering until the end of this month a $500 rebate on a new Pioneer HDTV from local retailers-plus the first three months free for ESPN HD, Showtime HD, HBO HD and Discovery HD Theater and three free months of digital cable programming-for a total estimated savings of over $641 to new HD customers.
DirecTV launched its $10.99 monthly HD programming package on July 1 with a free month of service for dish owners who sign up before Sept. 30. DirecTV bundles HBO-HD and Showtime-HD in those multiplex premiums, and charges $4.99 extra for HD pay-per-view movies.
DirecTV is also boosting its HD appeal to football fans.
Starting Sept. 7, DirecTV will present CBS's primary NFL game each week of the 2003 regular season schedule in 1080i high definition and broadcast in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound for DirecTV Sunday Ticket NFL package subscribers.
The primary games will be determined on a week-to-week basis and the hi-def transmissions will be subject to the NFL's hometown blackout rule when the hometown stadium is not sold out. The HD games will also available on a regionalized over-the-air basis to non-DirecTV subscribers via CBS affiliates.
"Our agreement with CBS to offer NFL games in HDTV for the first time makes our exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket package even more appealing," said DirecTV president and COO Roxanne Austin in a statement last week. "Only DirecTV has NFL Sunday Ticket and only DirecTV will offer NFL games in HDTV nationwide. Try as it might, cable just can't match us."
DirecTV is also offering (until Oct. 17) four free months of DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket to new DirecTV customers who sign up for 12 months of Total Choice plus the 2003 NFL Sunday Ticket package and a Total Choice Premier package with local channels within 30 days of equipment purchase.
CBS has embraced HDTV enthusiastically, with most of its prime-time programming this fall airing in hi-def for the fifth year running. It was the first network to broadcast a pro football game in high definition (on Nov. 8, 1998).
Meanwhile, the nation's biggest cable operator is still waiting to get in the game with CBS.
Despite reporting in its second quarter earnings call that it expects to have HDTV available in 65% of its homes by year-end, Comcast-which now has HDTV available in 54% of its homes-has yet to strike a deal with Viacom to transmit CBS local over-the-air HD feeds in any of its cable markets. Whether Viacom's new NFL-in-HD commitment will spur Comcast to overcome its reluctance to pay for CBS HD local feeds remains to be seen.