Members of an industrywide antenna coalition met in
Nashville, Tenn., last week to update direct-broadcast satellite dealers on a new mapping
program designed to help sell off-air antennas.
U.S. Satellite Broadcasting started the effort in an
attempt to help solve the local-channel problem for potential DBS customers who were
afraid that they would lose access to their favorite local and network shows.
Endorsed by the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers
Association, the coalition is creating computer-generated maps that direct consumers to
the best type of off-air antenna, based on where they live. Color-coded maps will be
broken up into neighborhood blocks as small as 1,000 square feet. Colors matching the
designated areas will adorn product packaging, directing consumers to the best antenna for
"A proper antenna on a house with DBS provides a
better choice than what cable has to offer today," said Carl Wegener, senior vice
president of dealer marketing for USSB.
Wegener added that he has tested the maps at a local
retailer, with successful results.
"The customer was able to make an antenna decision in
less than two minutes," he said.
The timing of the mapping program coincides with the launch
of the first digital-broadcast-television stations this fall. Amy Hill, staff director of
communications for the CEMA, said the antenna maps will be distributed starting in October
to retailers within the first 10 digital-television-launch markets. The CEMA plans to
deliver maps to 211 markets across the country by the first quarter of next year.
Wegener said the maps being printed today are also designed
to make antenna recommendations in the digital-broadcast age. "We won't need two
maps for analog and digital," he said.
Hill said the CEMA had not yet determined whether it will
charge retailers a fee for the maps. If so, the fee would be nominal, used to help defray
"Our goal is to encourage retailers to use the maps,
not to discourage them," Hill added.
More than one-dozen antenna manufacturers have agreed to
test their products against the new CEMA standards.
"It's not very often when you're able to get
tenacious competitors to agree on something like this," Wegener said.
The CEMA plans to print about 50,000 DMA maps and to make
them available to 30,000 stores. Some retailers may need multiple maps if they attract
customers from more than one market, Hill said. Others may want separate maps for the DBS
and the high-definition television departments.
"This is really an enormous undertaking," Hill
Maps for each market take into account local terrain,
buildings, distance from the broadcast tower and other factors that could play into
But as complex as the program was from an engineering and
marketing perspective, it was designed to be a no-brainer for consumers.
"The only thing that a consumer needs to know is where
they live," Hill said, "and they can walk out of the store with the off-air
antenna that they need."
The "very, very small" number of pockets across
the country where a broadcast signal can't be received with any type of antenna will
be marked in white on the maps, Hill said.
The National Association of Broadcasters and the Satellite
Broadcasting & Communications Association played key roles in the antenna coalition.