As the satellite industry frets about the legal and political battles over the rights of consumers to receive distant network signals, one company has turned the chaos into an opportunity.
Decisionmark, based in Grand Rapids, Iowa, last February began offering web sites designed to help satellite retailers help consumers determine their eligibility to receive out-of-market network signals via satellite.
If the consumer is found to be living where a Grade B off-air signal or better is available, the service will link to Decisionmark's www.getawaiver.com site to help the dealer place a waiver request with the local network affiliate station for the customer. It will also enable the dealer to check on the status of that waiver request.
Another component of the service -- at www.antennaselector.com -- will help the dealer and consumers find the best antenna solution for the customer who is living in an area where off-air signals should be available. The dealer-based web site, www.getnetworktv.com, is available to retailers for an annual subscription fee of $349.
"This essentially gives you everything you need to stay in compliance with the Satellite Home Viewer Act," said Jack Perry, Decisionmark president. "What we have heard is that the systems out there are poor. The dealer has to phone in, and they may be told, ‘No, you can't sell to this person,' and the retailer loses control of the consumer."
In the event that the waiver is denied, Decisionmark offers an antenna selector map at www.antennaselector.com, which shows the antenna best designed to meet the customer's surroundings. It also indicates which stations should be available to the customer and issues a list the nearest antenna dealers in the area.
"Using this system, the dealer could sell at the point of sale everything a person could get with an antenna. That's the best way to compete with cable," said Perry.
Through an arrangement with antenna manufacturer Winegard, Decisionmark offers an e-commerce site at www.iwantmyfreetv.com that lets a consumer purchase an antenna online.
"It was not our intention to get into the antenna business," said Perry. "However, with the number of people hitting our e-commerce site and buying antennas there direct, it is proof that the system works and that people are not afraid to buy antennas online."
Decisionmark generates much of its revenue by assisting over 700 TV stations in issuing waivers to consumers looking for out-of-market network signals.
Additionally, the broadcasters are given the chance to direct consumers who call or write to theweb site at www.getawaiver.com to fill out an easy-to-process waiver form.