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Home Antennas Get Big Boost From Digital, Satellite TV

2/26/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Spurred by a plethora of new products for digital and satellite video applications, and amplified by compact size, high-tech features and recognizable brand names, the comeback home antenna category is thriving.

With users shopping for innovative and attractively designed units that complement both room interiors and primary CE products, today's high-styled indoor antennas and easy-to-install outdoor products are moving away from the traditional types that have for so long dominated this conservative accessories category.

"In analyzing the TV antenna market, we see clear trends in both indoor and outdoor types," said Kent Shiplet, marketing and sales executive VP for Jasco Products. Common to all antennas is a "clear consumer preference for name-brand models," he said, which perfectly positions Jasco's GE brand to capitalize on this trend.

Sales of indoor antennas "are upshifting in price point, with strong preferences toward more contemporary styling and inclusion of amplification circuitry," said Shiplet. Reflecting these factors, along with the launch of its new antenna models, sales were up about 20 percent in 2000.

"Sales of our GE outdoor antennas have actually spiked this year," he said, due to the GE name, a full-line offering of both Stealth High Performance and traditional Roof Top Yagi models, and the provision of off-air network reception for satellite owners.

As for outdoor antennas for HDTV reception, however, Shiplet said Jasco expects only a moderate influence on 2001 sales.

Two new GE indoor models from Oklahoma City-based Jasco are the Futura Amplified TV antenna (TV94725) and the Omni Amplified TV antenna (TV94727).

The Futura, which offers a "unique" look for the home, is UHF/VHF/FM amplified and connects to any television. Jasco said the digital-compatible Futura is ideal for use with minidish satellite systems. Suggested retail is $22.99.

The Omni, also featuring a "unique" design, has 39-inch retractable black dipoles and a UHF loop that rotates 360 degrees with full-tilt capabilities. Suggested retail is $24.99.

Two of Jasco's new outdoor antennas-the HDTV/UHF TV94764 and the TV94768-also carry the GE brand.

The TV94764, at a suggested $49.99, is digital ready and incorporates a back reflector to reduce ghosting. The unit is compact and powerful, at 35 inches high x 20 inches wide. The TV94768, $99.99 suggested retail, is designed for deep fringe applications and has a boom length of 180 inches. It incorporates snap-lock elements and a heavy-duty locking mast mechanism. The 54-element antenna includes a 300- to 75-ohm transformer.

While addressing the growing demand for digital television and satellite antennas, Zenith Accessories has developed a line for 2001 that offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor applications for both digital and analog television.

"Consumers are looking for the best and least expensive way to receive off-air programming for second and third viewing locations in today's homes," said Zenith Electronics accessories VP Len Coakley. "Plus, savvy retailers are beginning to capitalize on the value-added sale of antennas with digital televisions, a trend that we see continuing to grow."

Zenith's entry-level indoor antenna, ATS110, has a 36-inch mast and a pre-attached UHF loop, and is ideal for cable television backup and use with satellite systems.

The step-up ATS210 includes a seven-position adjustable control and a 75-ohm wire for quick attachments to new-model televisions.

At the top of the indoor antenna line, the amplified ATS710 boosts the standard TV signal by as much as 32dB gain and offers dual-stage line filtration for a cleaner signal.

Suggested retail prices for Zenith's ATS line range from $9.99 to $49.99.

Seven Zenith outdoor antennas feature ease of installation and modern hookup. Six of the antennas range from 12 elements in the city to 69 elements in remote suburban areas. Five models are DTV-capable, while one is a UHF/FM antenna only. Suggested retails range from $19.99 to $199.99.

The Lincolnshire, Ill.-based accessory segment's new antenna line also offers a 21-inch omnidirectional antenna with a DBS mount. This amplified minidish features a three-way mounting system for roof or wall. It is multi-stage, low noise and weatherproofed at a suggested $129.99 retail.

Terk Technologies, which is focusing on providing the fewest number of antenna SKUs for the broadest marketplace, is featuring its compact TV55. The unit can be mounted indoors or out and is optimized for maximum high-definition and analog TV signals. Suggested retail is $129.95, including mounting hardware.

"With all of the changes taking place due to the growth and popularity of DBS, we decided to take an intelligent approach to our newest antenna," said Neil Terk, CEO of his namesake Commack, N.Y.-based company. Local-to-local is still not available everywhere, and there are often numerous stations that viewers can't receive, he said, so DBS and antennas are a natural complement.

Viewers still need antennas to supplement their digital satellite systems, said Terk, who maintains the TV55 improves selection for consumers and stock options for retailers.

"We anticipate that the demand for antennas will increase based on the multitude of new services that are being offered in homes today," said Terk in assessing the future of the antenna category. "We expect that many new services will evolve around the new infrastructure of HDTV broadcast stations, therefore again driving the need for antennas."

Jensen, a major brand name of Lake Mary, Fla.-based corporate parent Recoton, is offering a line of amplified and passive indoor TV antennas that the company said are completely redesigned and re-engineered to complement today's TV technology. The antennas feature high-tech styling and are said to fit seamlessly into any interior decor scheme. Price points range from a suggested $9.99 to $59.99.

"We have done extensive research into the needs and preferences of customers who purchase antennas," said Eddie Oliver, senior product manager of the Jensen antenna line, "and have created a unique lineup of both amplified and passive indoor TV antennas that meet the needs of virtually every retailer and customer."

Jensen's TV920, an amplified UHF/VHF indoor model, features a sleek design that provides a stylized low profile that is claimed to be virtually invisible when located on top of a television or shelf-but still offers internal elements that mimic much larger designs.

The TV930 UHF/VHF offers dual amplification, twin low-noise amplifier circuits with separate UHF and VHF gain controls and fully adjustable 44-inch dipole elements.

Both models feature a built-in A/B switch that allows easy selection between television and video games, cable or satellite sources, and have a $59.99 suggested retail.

Channel Master is featuring an HDTV-digital off-air antenna that it considers unlike any in the industry. The unit, called the Stealthtenna model 3010, is fully assembled and provides superior-quality local programming reception, said Channel Master.

Made to receive both digital and analog signals, the Stealthtenna provides VHF/UHF/FM reception within a suburban range. The antenna complements DBS satellite systems for receiving local broadcasts and also is an "ideal" unit for HDTV reception. Suggested retail is $69.95.

For additional signal gain, the Stealthtenna can be equipped with an optional amplifier that fits inside the antenna housing. Called model 3038, it has a suggested $100 retail.

Channel Master does a large part of its antenna business as an OEM for DirecTV satellite antennas and distributes these to selected retailers nationwide. Products include an 18-inch steel antenna with a dual low-noise blocker (LNB) and an 18-inch unit with dual LNB and a four x four multiswitch.

Dual LNB systems enable consumers to install multiple set-top boxes in their homes.

"This agreement with DirecTV allows us to work not only with the leading satellite entertainment service provider in the nation, but to also form alliances with retailers around the country," said Jim Crownover, director of direct-broadcast satellite products at Smithfield, N.C.-based Channel Master.

"There will be increased interest building over the next few years as digital technology penetrates the market and feeds demand for off-air antennas," said Bill Brown, product manager at Thomson Multimedia.

Brown, who feels antennas "will remain a critical part of the consumer electronics business for years to come," said this category continues as a source of core products in the overall accessories business.

"Demand remains strong for an affordable way to receive off-air signals," he said. "Whether as stand-alone antennas or used in conjunction with digital broadcast systems, antennas are by far the most economical option for local programming."

To this end, the Deptford, N.J.-based indoor antenna arm of Thomson Multimedia offers four models under the company's RCA brand, two of which are designed to fit any room decor.

The RCA ANT1020 and ANT1030 are two passive antennas that closely resemble the shape of a "steady" snail. Both receive VHF/UHF/FM signals, come with 39-inch adjustable VHF dipoles, and receive digital and HDTV signals. The ANT1030 has a 12-position switch for fine-tuning VHF and UHF reception.

"Consumers are looking for innovative designs that are more in step with digital technology," said Brown about the 1020, which has a $14.95 suggested retail, and the 1030, at $19.95.

Two amplified indoor antennas from Thomson-the RCA ANT1200 and ANT1250-boost weak VHF, UHF and FM signals up to 45dB. Both feature 39-inch black adjustable, retractable dipoles and a UHF loop that tilts and rotates to provide the best possible reception.

The 1250 also has dual UHF and VHF gain controls that provide an extra level of tuning. Both have an integrated A/B switch and cable input for switching between antenna and cable or satellite, and the ability to bypass the amplifier to avoid signal saturation.

Suggested retail for the 1200 is $49.95, the 1250 is $59.95.

"As cable and satellite programs become more prevalent and less expensive, consumers will need to find a reason to purchase indoor antennas," said Susan Blessing, product manager for antennas at Gemini Industries.

The Clifton, N.J.-based company said one way to entice users is with antennas that offer optimum performance, along with designs that complement the current trends in audio and video products.

The best example of that approach, said Gemini, is its Philips Magnavox-brand Mant500 indoor antenna, which retails for a suggested $39.99. The VHF/UHF/FM DTV-compatible amplified unit offers a super-low profile, with no dipoles showing, and lays flat on top of most televisions.

This top-of-the-line antenna features 44-inch retractable VHF dipoles and UHF swivel loop. The individual VHF/UHF gain controls allow for additional precise tuning and amplification up to 20dB. The Mant500 includes state-of-the-art surface-mount circuitry and two-stage cascade-type amplifiers to ensure optimum reception, said Gemini.

"Consumers also need to realize that even though indoor antennas may not be the primary source of reception," said Blessing, "they can still serve as a backup when cable or satellite service becomes inoperable."