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Time/ABC Fight Gives Antennas Quick PR Boost

The 39-hour debacle between Time Warner and Disney's ABC didn't cause a widespread run on indoor antennas and A/B switches at retail. But more consumers now know they need those products if their cable service goes out for any length of time.

Local TV stations and newspapers in the New York metropolitan area (one of seven markets where Time Warner pulled ABC off its cable systems) reported that indoor antennas and A/B switches were sold out and consumers were begging for more. Well, not quite, according to several top retailers and manufacturers, but RadioShack was busy.

One of the leading accessories retailers in the country, RadioShack did get extra business. A spokesperson for the chain said that of the seven markets hit on May 1, "New York had the highest jump in sales of A/B switches and antennas, specifically Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens." Houston and Raleigh/ Durham followed.

RadioShack sent by air-freight product to eight sales districts in New York City, four in Houston and three in Raleigh/Durham. Each RadioShack district serves 30 stores.

As for satellite dishes, the only market that had an increase in sales was Houston. "Local salespeople sold against the incident . `If you had a dish you wouldn't have this problem now,' " a RadioShack spokesperson said.

Other leading retailers and manufacturers were prepared for the incident. Both Circuit City and Best Buy reported they had adequate inventories and did not experience shortages.

Neil Terk, president of Terk Technologies, said, "We brought in extra operators for an influx of calls, but we've basically had the same sales activity. No real boost yet. If certain retailers sold out, they may be taking their time to reorder because it was such a short event."

Terk added, "If this incident did anything for us, it has made the public more aware of antennas."

Recoton got the word out by being "proactive," according to Peter Ildau, corporate communications VP. "We contacted leading papers in affected cities, offering them samples and literature about antennas and A/B switches. One of our samples made it onto CNBC the next morning [May 2] with the anchor people showing the product and how it works."

Along with Terk and Recoton, suppliers such as Jasco, Thomson and Zenith did not report a major boost in antenna or A/B switch orders.

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