EchoStar Communications Corp. has officially named its new
programming promotion the "Unbeatable Deal." But at company headquarters,
EchoStar executives call it something else.
"I'm calling it the 'Dump Cable'
campaign," said John Reardon, president of the direct-broadcast satellite
company's Dish Network. "Dump Cable" refers to the two-word headline
running across the two-page newspaper ad spreads that launch nationally today (March 16).
The promotion offers two months of programming credits to
first-time subscribers who turn in a recent cable bill. To qualify for the credits,
Reardon said, consumers can also submit a bill from PrimeStar Partners Inc., DirecTv Inc.
or any other multichannel video provider, including wireless cable.
First-time subscribers who choose the Dish Network
America's Top 40 package receive a $40 credit -- the package sells for $19.99 a month
-- and those who take the America's Top 60 CD package get a credit for $60. The new
Top 60 package, which debuts next month, sells for $28.99 a month.
The deal runs through May 31, and will be promoted on radio
as well as in print.
In addition to serving as a good gimmick, the cable bills
that EchoStar collects will offer its executives a chance to research where new Dish
Network subscribers are coming from and what types of programming packages they've
Reardon said he's also kicking around the idea of
holding a contest to see who can turn in the most outrageous cable bill.
"This is our first real marketing push this
year," Reardon said of the Unbeatable Deal. It follows a discounted installation
promotion that started before the holidays and ran through February. EchoStar plans to run
major marketing promotions again in the third and fourth quarters.
During the recent holidays, EchoStar ran into a hardware
shortage that kept the company from signing on as many customers as it might have. But
today, "the pipeline is full" again in time for the new promotion, said Reardon.
To help further boost subscriber acquisitions during the
Dump Cable campaign, EchoStar recently introduced new dealer incentives that compensate
retailers more handsomely if they sell expanded programming packages when they sell the
Dish Network hardware.
Barbara Sullivan, president of Denver-based B.G. Marketing
Inc. and a former marketing executive with EchoStar, said she was heartened that the DBS
industry is putting more emphasis on programming rather than just promoting hardware
"If we condition the consumer to focus on the price of
the dish, they're going to think that's most important," said Sullivan.
"The programming is what differentiates DBS from analog cable."
DBS companies have been turning up the heat against their
cable competition in recent months. DirecTv last month began aggressive print and
television campaigns asking cable subscribers to switch over to the DBS service.
EchoStar was the first DBS company to go after cable
customers directly, with hard-hitting newspaper ads in select markets where cable
operators had raised rates.