SBCA to Kick Off Certification Program


The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association
will offer its first dealer-certification courses and tests later this week at its annual
convention in Nashville, Tenn.

In partnership with the National Rural Telecommunications
Cooperative, the SBCA created the B.E.S.T. (Building Excellence in Satellite Television)
training program to ensure that satellite dealers are prepared to keep pace with the
industry's growth. Certification will give consumers and vendors a quick way to
determine which dealers have invested in keeping their staff up-to-date on matters such as
small-dish installation, off-air antennas and multiroom-signal distribution.

"It's no secret that the satellite industry was
filled with many diverse people," said Stan Kozlowski, senior vice president of sales
and marketing for the NRTC. In the 1980s and early 1990s, some satellite retailers were
hobbyists, Kozlowski added, and while some of them matured to delivering high levels of
customer service, others did not.

"It's a different landscape today than in
1993," before DirecTv Inc. launched the Digital Satellite System and the 18-inch
direct-broadcast satellite industry, Kozlowski said. "Any industry that evolves this
fast needs benchmarks in place."

NRTC members market DSS and DirecTv exclusively. But
Kozlowski realizes that the B.E.S.T. program may help other DBS platforms, such as
EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network and PrimeStar Inc., as well.

"I think that the real competition here is
cable," Kozlowski said, "so if any satellite dealer is well-trained -- even if
they don't sell only DSS -- we think that's good. Even though we compete
vigorously, we'd rather have consumers go to a DBS competitor than to cable. Cable
has been unresponsive to the needs of rural Americans."

Chris Sophinos, senior vice president of sales and
distribution for PrimeStar and co-chairman of the SBCA's retail-certification-program
committee, said PrimeStar supports the B.E.S.T. initiative.

"It's in our best interest as an industry to see
that [independent satellite dealers] continue to be successful," Sophinos said,
noting that the number of such independents has declined over the past five years.

With a smaller number of dealers, it's all the more
important that the remaining dealers are skilled, Sophinos added.

As DBS programmers and hardware vendors introduce
high-definition television, Dolby Digital surround sound, data services and other
advances, consumers will require more highly skilled technicians to hook up their

According to SBCA spokeswoman Jennifer Snyder, some of the
Nashville B.E.S.T. courses had already sold out more than one week before the show was to
start. The SBCA will also offer exemption testing at the show for dealers who have already
taken related SBCA training in the past year.

Snyder said preregistration for the SBCA show was up 40
percent over last July's convention in Nashville, to 1,600 attendees.