February 28, 2016
General Instrument will use the Winter Consumer Electronics Show to push C-band satellite television technology, despite its partnership in a Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) business. The growth in DBS interest should not make retailers forget the more established C-band technology which uses a larger dish to pull in over 300 channels, according to General Instrument. Consumers have more choice with C-band and may have to pay less per month for the system.
General Instrument will exhibit at Winter CES(WCES) for the first time in years, with a specific satellite-related message in mind. While the company has a vested interest in Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) via its partnership with Primestar partners Ltd., GI wants to make clear big-dish C-band is alive and well and can make a winning alternative to the smaller-dish DBS. At WCES, the company intends to let retailers know that many consumers, given the choice, will opt for C-band with its proven technology and greater number of available channels, and any retailer not offering that option could stand to lose substantial business.
“C-band is the Cadillac of the satellite industry–not everyone wants to drive a Geo,” noted Alan McCabe, vice president of consumer product sales for GI’s Communication Division, which makes products for both the home satellite and cable industries. “We were at the last Summer CES for the first time in a very long time because we knew DirecTv (the other existing DBS provider, in partnership with Thomson Consumer Electronics) would be there and consumer electronics dealers were beginning to show a huge interest in satellite TV; also, one of our partners, Primestar, was looking for media attention and they were in our booth.”
C-band, McCabe noted, has great sales potential with consumers who want more than what DBS has to offer. DBS, in the form of the DirecTv/Thomson RCA Digital Satellite System (DSS), can handle a maximum of 175 channels via its 18-inch dish. Primestar’s version of DBS can handle up to 77 via its 3-foot dish.
But a C-band system can pull in upwards of 300 channels via its larger (5-foot-and-up) dish. C-band has been around for more than 10 years and is being continually refined, noted McCabe.
C-band sales were expected to peak a year ago, but it didn’t happen, he added. “We had 69,300 C-band authorizations in August, and we expect 750,000 new C-band customers in 1994. At least 500,000 of those will be brand new and the rest, upgrades.”
The industry veteran claimed DirecTv and Primestar would move millions of DBS units over the next few years. “It’s a huge attraction to a lot of people,” he said. Still, as DBS grows and C-band levels off, “even a smaller percentage of the market means C-band is still a growing business.”
Some 70 percent of C-band sales are made in-home, and perhaps 35 percent of those approved for financing, which could result in a boom for a DBS supplier like Primestar, McCabe said. “These become prime customers for Primestar with its leasing program,” he explained. “We could deliver a half-million new customers just based on financing turndowns. Primestar has been hesitant about the turndown business, because of the perceived image problem, but they’re now looking at dealer prospects, with us egging them on.”
He said he understood why consumer electronics retailers haven’t been selling satellite TV, which is a time-consuming sale, but this has changed since DirecTv and Primestar got the message out. “The bulk of the educational effort is done.”
GI may put together a C-band package for retailers, much like PC suppliers did to promote their business in the consumer market. C-band, like the PC industry and home theater, tends to be heavily component-oriented.
The plum for retailers who get into the business is greater profitability, McCabe added. “C-band versus DBS means more choices and, likely, lower monthly costs for the user. On a closed system such as cable or DBS, the provider’s ability to change costs is a factor, versus C-band, where there are more than 35 programming packagers. So if the consumer doesn’t like one, he picks another, and this has driven pricing down considerably.”
HFD wants information about new products manufacturers plan to unveil at the Winter Consumer electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
HFD’s Electronics staff has begun gathering information about products exhibitors will show for the first time. We plan to publish new product information in HFD beginning Dec. 5, as well as in our show issue, Jan. 2, in our CES dailies during the show and in our post-show issues, Jan. 9, 16 and 23.
Manufacturers introducing products at the show should send us the information, along with black and white pictures, by Wednesday, Nov. 23. Information received after that deadline has no guarantee of making our show issues or CES dailies.