USDTV to Debut in Dallas


Low-cost wireless-TV service U.S. Digital Television LLC will launch commercially this week with a rollout in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, according to company executives.

In addition to the official debut in the nation’s seventh-largest TV market, USDTV will also begin actively selling its service in three markets where it has already been piloting its offering: Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Albuquerque, N.M.

USDTV is currently in about 4,500 homes in those three markets, and it hopes to have several-thousand subscribers in Dallas by year-end.

The company has tweaked its initial strategy somewhat. In addition to guaranteeing its video package for $19.95 monthly over two years, it is also offering consumers an accelerated dial-up Internet option for an additional $10 per month.

Backed financially by several major TV-station groups, USDTV had several reasons for picking Dallas for its first top-10 market launch, according to CEO Steve Lindsley.

First, cable’s penetration there is relatively low, under 50% of TV households, he said. But there were other factors, as well.

“It’s a great reception market with great broadcasters, very strong broadcasters, in the market,” he added. “And the Dallas consumers are generally going to be appreciative of USDTV’s more family-friendly offering. The capper would be that we’ve got a lot of Wal-Marts there, which, obviously, is our keystone distribution.”

Comcast Corp. is the major cable operator in Dallas. Comcast officials said they take all competition seriously, but they feel well-positioned in Dallas against USDTV, with a bundle of services such as video-on-demand, high-speed data, phone and, soon, wireless.

“We are competing every day, and our product line supports a very strong position in the marketplace,” Comcast spokesman Jim Gordon said.

Time Warner Cable will get Comcast’s Dallas system as part of a swap following the acquisition of Adelphia Communications Corp. by Time Warner Inc. and Comcast.

For more on USDTV, please see Linda Moss’ story on page 15 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.