Philips, Charter Team Up to Sell HDTVs


Boston -- Philips Consumer Electronics Co. cut a deal with Charter Communications Inc. to jointly sell HDTVs through a co-branded Web site.

The agreement, announced at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s CTAM Summit here Monday, will see Charter collect a commission on every TV sold through the Web site, Philips vice president of business innovation Julia Langley said.

Philips is talking with other cable operators about similar agreements. The Charter pilot program, which will debut by the end of next week, will be expanded later this year, Langley added.

The agreement could make Charter the first cable operator to sell HDTVs directly to its subscribers. In January, satellite competitor EchoStar Communications Corp. announced a deal with Philips to sell EchoStar-branded HDTVs directly to its customers for just $999.

Philips also has a joint marketing agreement with ESPN and Best Buy Co. Inc. Langley ran several spots that illustrated the marketing strategy during her keynote address to CTAM attendees, including clips in which ESPN anchors such as Chris Berman and Dan Patrick dropped plugs for Philips HDTVs and ESPN HD while on the air.

CTAM, through its “Only Cable Can” initiative, has partnered with Philips rivals Panasonic Consumer Electronics and Samsung Electronics America Inc. this year on promotions that offer consumers $100 in discounts on their cable bills if they buy an HDTV from the television companies. Langley said Philips “would love to do such a deal.”

Panasonic, Samsung and several other consumer-electronics manufacturers recently began shipping the first digital-cable-ready TVs, which would allow consumers to access digital-cable programming without the need for cable set-tops.

However, the digital-cable-ready TVs that are currently on the market are only one-way, so viewers who want access to video-on-demand and other interactive services would still need digital set-tops.

Philips VP of technology, policy and standards Brian Smith said Philips and other consumer-electronics companies are still negotiating with cable operators on the terms for a standard that would allow for the manufacture of two-way digital-cable-ready TVs.

Smith declined to say what issues are delaying an agreement or when he expects the cable industry and consumer-electronics manufacturers to come to terms on a two-way deal.

He said the first Philips one-way digital-cable-ready TVs “will be available shortly.”