Sweetening the HD Deal

11/25/2007 7:00 PM Eastern

This holiday-shopping season, some video distributors are giving subscribers gifts of high-definition TVs — which they hope will make those customers keep on giving.

Verizon Communications is offering a free Sharp Aquos 19-inch LCD HDTV to new FiOS triple-play subscribers who commit to a two-year service contract by Dec. 15 in at least eight states.

And EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network, the No. 2 satellite-TV provider, is offering discounts of up to $800 on Sharp HDTVs, to both new and existing customers, through Jan. 31. The Sharp TV sets offered by Dish range from 26 to 65 inches, and the promotion includes free shipping within the continental United States.

Verizon’s offer is a particularly aggressive subscriber-acquisition gambit. The 19-inch Sharp HDTV model carries a list price of $499.99 at, though qualifying FiOS subscribers can opt for a $200 Best Buy gift certificate instead.

“This is the time of year to draw people into this kind of offer,” Verizon director of media relations Jim Smith said. “There are holiday specials on television, and football’s on TV.”

The telco began promoting the offer Oct. 15 in its New York, New Jersey and southern Connecticut markets. Smith declined to provide information on how many subscribers were taking Verizon up on the offer. But he said based on early results there, the company decided to launch the promotion last week in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia and parts of the Midwest including Fort Wayne, Ind.

The free-HDTV offer is set to run through Dec. 15, although Smith noted that Verizon may extend it through the end of December. The deal is available to subscribers who take FiOS TV, FiOS Internet and phone and commit to a two-year contract; at least one element of the bundle must be a new service.

In the New York region — where Cablevision Systems and Time Warner Cable are the biggest cable providers — Verizon customers can also qualify for the free HDTV if they subscribe to DirecTV satellite-TV service through the telco with a one-year commitment, or digital subscriber line service instead of FiOS Internet (also for a one-year contract).

Last week, Cablevision announced a partnership with P.C. Richard & Son, an electronics retailer in the New York metropolitan area, to promote the operator’s triple-play of digital cable, high-speed Internet and voice phone service at 35 of its stores in Cablevision’s service area.

The deal revives Cablevision’s marketing presence in retail. The company shut down its The Wiz electronics chain in 2003 after it was unsuccessful in finding a buyer. Cablevision acquired the retailer in 1998, and The Wiz stores sold cable modems with the idea that self-installation saved the parent company truck rolls.

At the P.C. Richard stores, customers will be able to sign up for Cablevision services and the operator also is providing cable TV to more than 30 of those stores to demonstrate its high-definition programming lineup.

Meanwhile, Verizon has a separate giveaway for new double-play subscribers: an RCA Small Wonder EZ201 handheld mini-camcorder, which the telco says has a retail value of $129.

Customers must subscribe to phone service plus either TV or Internet service to receive the mini-camcorder. In areas where FiOS is not available, Smith said, the RCA Small Wonder will be the offer the telco will use to stimulate subscriber growth.

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