EchoStar Communications Corp. began a new marketing
campaign earlier this month with the election-year theme, "Vote Dish Now."
The company is using full-page newspaper ads and catchy
radio spots to call attention to its new free-hardware and free-professional-installation
offer, asking television viewers to cast their vote for the Dish Network direct-broadcast
satellite service, rather than for cable.
"We always enjoy going after cable customers because
it's sport, and there are 67 million of them," EchoStar vice president of marketing
Mary Peterson said at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Peterson said EchoStar has eliminated the last major
objection that cable subscribers raised over switching to DBS: the out-of-pocket expense.
She added that EchoStar would concentrate its Dish advertising in the 18 markets where the
company already offers local-to-local channels.
EchoStar plans to update the "Vote Dish" campaign
throughout the year, playing up key events in the presidential election campaign. "It
will be very flexible," Peterson said.
The first radio ads feature an announcer posing as a
presidential hopeful who "doesn't claim to have invented the Internet," or to be
a basketball hero or the son of a former president. Instead, he addresses "the real
issues -- why do cable rates keep rising each year?"
EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen told reporters at the CES
to expect more aggressive marketing from Dish now that the company has bandwidth capable
of delivering 500 channels of programming.
"It didn't make a lot of sense for us to do a lot of
marketing for Dish Network when we had fewer channels than the other guys," Ergen
said. "Now it does. I encourage you if you have a cable bill to start the 21st
century with 21st-century technology."
Ergen would not say how much the company would spend on
marketing this year.
Through March, cable subscribers who show recent cable
bills and commit to buying a programming package for $39.98 per month that includes at
least one premium-movie service are eligible for free "Dish 500" systems plus
professional installation. Noncable customers have a similar option, but they must pay for
the hardware upfront before receiving a rebate.
The company has also said that it will upgrade current Dish
customers to Dish 500 systems capable of seeing multiple satellite locations. Ergen said
last week during an on-air "Charlie Chat" with consumers that professional
installations for the upgrades are running six to eight weeks behind due to demand.
Ergen also said last week that EchoStar's customer-service
operators have been experiencing heavier-than-typical call volume in recent weeks. He
added that the company would open a new call center in El Paso, Texas, late last week.
A spokesman for the company clarified that EchoStar was
moving existing operators in El Paso into its new call center last week, adding that
staffing there would increase dramatically over the next month or so.
DirecTV Inc.'s latest consumer promotion was set to expire
over the weekend. A company spokesman said DirecTV would likely introduce its next major
offer in February or March. At the CES, DirecTV president Eddy Hartenstein vowed to
heavily promote the company's local-to-local programming.