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Retailer Planning For Cable Is Key

High-definition TV manufacturers advise retailers to begin working with their local cable operators now to prepare for the arrival of digital-cable-ready TV sets later this year and next.

“It’s up to the local retailer to be proactive and work with the cable services that serve their markets, and align themselves to put together some sort of an information package, if not a promotional package,” said Steve Panosian, Samsung display products group senior marketing manager. “I believe if you have the information down, and you have some sort of a simple, turnkey way to buy into digital cable, that is probably 95 percent of the battle.”

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recommends retailers “begin developing alliances and reaching out to local cable MSOs, so that when the standards are complete and products begin rolling out into the marketplace, they are ready to move ahead,” said CEA spokesman Jeff Joseph.

The biggest challenge in selling HDTV, Joseph said, is the complexity of the issue of getting HDTV programming. “This provides an opportunity for the retailer,” he said. “They have the opportunity to sell the service, to sell the hardware and to sell the installation and setup of the hardware.”

Early action can be key to winning sales down the road.

“We anticipate as HDTV becomes more of a mainstream product, more people will be coming into stores asking, ‘Is this digital-cable ready?’ Cable has really pushed HDTV very hard this year and is adding new HD programming all the time. This is going to bring more people into retail asking that question,” said Dave Arland, Thomson corporate and government affairs spokesman.

As for selling cable-ready TVs and HDTV service, Cathy Lasorsa, Panasonic national television marketing manager, suggested that retailers focus on the “simplicity message” that digital-cable-ready television sets will offer in terms of installation and placement in the home.

As for the best approach in selling cable HDTV services, the initial challenge is “just letting consumers know we have HD,” said Chris Caffery, retail sales VP at cable MSO Comcast.

As with selling digital satellite services, retailers are advised to begin selling the programming that is now available, as well as the sight and sound experience that programming can deliver.

Comcast is also collaborating with CE manufacturers on promotion of HDTV. Zenith recently supplied plasma displays, LCDs, direct view TV and HDTV projection monitors for a Comcast sales training event in Schaumburg, Ill.

John Taylor, Zenith corporate communications VP, said his company is preparing to offer digital-cable-ready TVs and strongly encourages dealers to get involved with local cable operators to get the word to consumers on HDTV services.