The cable industry is working to help consumer electronics retailers simplify the process of selling HDTV and other cable services by deploying an interactive information network known as Go2Broadband.
The service — which was co-developed by CableLabs, a cable industry design and engineering organization, and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), a marketing and education association for the cable industry — has been employed for several years to help retailers sell high-speed cable modems. It is now being expanded and adapted to add information about high-definition television programming services and equipment.
Using the system, cable operators and retailers will be able to develop their own presentation software for informational kiosks and work stations deployed at the point of sale. Retailers and shoppers will then be able to quickly identify the cable system serving them, what HDTV programming that cable operator provides, what it will cost, how it is packaged, and what set-top box equipment or security module card (known as a CableCARD) are available from the local cable operator.
Additionally, if the retailer has made arrangements with the cable operator, the customer can be registered on the spot to receive the service, which could lead to a commission payment for the retailer and salesperson. The Go2Broadband service even provides unique identification numbers, which allow the retailer and cable operator to tabulate those commissions.
Jerry Bennington, CableLabs executive consultant for Go2Broadband, said the mission of the program is to provide a tool to help retailers close a sale on an HDTV set. Armed with an accurate list of all the HD programming a cable operator provides, a retailer can tell a customer exactly what he or she will be able view in full high-definition resolution, taking the emphasis off the hardware and placing it on the entertainment experience.
"It can become the key sales tool for the salesman to sell that $5,000 or $10,000 plasma TV, because now you can tell the customer they have something to watch on it besides their DVDs," Bennington said.
At the same time, cable operators potentially get a new cable customer or an expanded level of service from an existing subscriber, while fending off competition from rival satellite services at the point of sale.
"If [retailers] can get a 20 to 30 percent lift in sales on HDTV sets from this kind of marketing support, then that's a big win," Bennington said. "They will probably profit a lot more from this than we do."
"The cable industry has always had difficulty at retail because of the way it is geographically organized," he continued. "This goes a long way toward making a one-stop-shop for the sale of cable services. The Go2Broadband system creates a lot of parity in the market in terms of sales support and consumer information, so the consumer gets the correct information for them in a timely manner."
Go2Broadband is essentially a system for sending formatted messages back and forth between the cable operator and the retailer. It is up to the major retail chains and cable operators to provide the presentation software used to deliver those messages in a meaningful way to the salesperson or customer. The presentation software can be developed by the retailer or by a third-party developer, to package the service in a point-of-sale computer station, kiosk or Web page.
Smaller independent retailers can work with one of several third-party content aggregators to develop this software, and in certain cases local cable operators have provided retailers with simple kiosks to utilize the Go2Broadband service.
"To be affiliated with Go2Broadband, a retailer – either brick and mortar or online – needs to have their own site," said Seth Morrison, CTAM marketing senior VP. "Content aggregators offer an affiliate site, and retailers can contract with [them] to run their site."
Currently, the Go2Broadband system is running trials on the initial Go2Broadband HDTV software, and in a handful of cases retailers are using it to sell or lease HD-cable boxes and services. A broader scale rollout of the software is expected this fall.
Virtually all the major multisystem cable operators have signed on with Go2Broadband, Bennington said, and a few retailers have plans to participate by the Christmas selling season.