Several regional Bell operating companies are stepping up
their efforts to market DirecTv Inc.'s video service to their telephone subscribers.
GTE Corp., Bell Atlantic Corp. and SBC Communications Inc.
are using the power of their own brand names -- as well as the brand-name recognition of
DirecTv -- to help bring in incremental revenues by selling the direct-broadcast satellite
In Dallas, GTE sent out its first phone-bill inserts
promoting DirecTv earlier this month, according to Anna Marie Moran, general manager for
GTE Satellite Entertainment, a unit of GTE Media Ventures.
GTE has been taking orders for the DBS service since June
in both Dallas and Los Angeles. Initial sales came from walk-in traffic to GTE's 20
retail locations in the two markets, where banners and interactive displays promote
Moran said GTE will execute more proactive marketing
practices -- such as television and newspaper advertising, as well as targeted direct mail
-- after the company has evaluated the results of its Dallas billstuffer tests.
"These guys have proven to be very aggressive and very
marketing-savvy," said John McKee, vice president of special markets at DirecTv.
GTE has had practice marketing video services before,
through its Americast offer in Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Clearwater, Fla.; and Honolulu. In
Thousand Oaks, the new DirecTv offer competes head-to-head with GTE's Americast
"We see this as very much complementary," Moran
said. "We want to give customers a choice of video services. In some cases, people
Bell Atlantic recently began marketing its DirecTv product
on a limited basis in metropolitan Washington, D.C. Spokesman Larry Plumb said the company
initially began selling the service to employees and installing DBS systems in their
homes, "and we're now moving up the learning curve."
Plumb said Bell Atlantic markets its DirecTv service as a
cable-replacement package, in contrast to the historical consumer-electronics retail
With one call to Bell Atlantic, a truck rolls, bringing not
only the DBS hardware -- which is available for sale or lease -- but also an off-air
antenna for local broadcast signals, which aren't available on DirecTv.
A Bell Atlantic installer shows the customer how to operate
the equipment and interface with the programming guide. And Bell Atlantic integrates on
one bill the DirecTv and U.S. Satellite Broadcasting programming, along with the
"They're proving to be the kind of partner that
we want to have," McKee said of Bell Atlantic. "They've done a lot of
analytical work on what kind of off-air antenna is needed."
SBC is working with apartment buildings in Dallas, Houston
and Austin, Texas, and in Oklahoma City to offer DirecTv as part of its
"SmartMoves" program. The service offers one-stop shopping for
multiple-dwelling-unit residents, with a single bill for telephone and video services.
McKee said SBC has been connecting DirecTv subscribers since June.
SBC spokesman Brian Posnansky said the company would
announce a more aggressive rollout schedule within the next few months.
In addition to RBOCs, DirecTv is seeking relationships with
other telephone companies, including long-distance providers and smaller Bell operating
companies that serve single, large metropolitan markets.
DirecTv has had such a partnership with Cincinnati Bell
Telephone Co. since 1996. "Our love affair continues," McKee said.
Michael Gordon, product manager for Cincinnati Bell TV,
called the relationship successful and said the company is exceeding its 1998 expectations
for the service.
Cincinnati Bell offers zero percent financing over 36
months, and it includes the price of the hardware, programming and installation right on a
subscriber's telephone bill.
The company started its DirecTv offer with single-family
homes, and it is now testing the MDU and commercial markets.
Last fall, Cincinnati Bell opened six stores in the Greater
Cincinnati market, which have sold the DirecTv product since their doors opened. The phone
company also runs four major campaigns promoting DirecTv throughout the year, backed by
radio ads, newspaper inserts, direct mail and community-event sponsorships.