Dish Piles On the Retail Promotions

EchoStar Communications Corp. has enlisted the support of its programmer and retailer partners to help push sales of its Dish Network systems this summer.

The direct-broadcast satellite provider announced three separate promotions designed to boost its subscriber base, as well as its revenue per subscriber.

Among the giveaways used to attract new customers are rebates toward free satellite systems, free installation, free personal digital-video-recording features, $40 retail gift cards and collections of cartoon videos and theme songs.

"We do a lot of promotions simultaneously in order to really support our retailers," EchoStar vice president of marketing Mary Peterson said.

Showtime Networks Inc. is offering $40 "Sears Gift Cards" to consumers who buy new Dish systems at one of 1,600 Sears, Roebuck & Co. stores by July 1 and sign up for the "Showtime Unlimited" premium-movie service.

Showtime sells for $10.99 per month and offers 10 multiplex feeds, including Sundance Channel, The Movie Channel and Showtime Beyond.

New customers who take programming packages that bring the monthly subscription price up to $39.98 can also take advantage of EchoStar's free installation and $199 hardware-rebate offer, which runs through the end of July.

"We want to be able to integrate our programming with the purchase decision," said Taylor Adams, Showtime's account vice president of the direct-to-home satellite group.

Sears will back the promotion with its "wall of eyes," where it will feature clips of Showtime programming, plus a 45-second spot promoting the Dish offer, on its in-store display of television monitors. The retailer will also have customized literature available in its stores, and it will promote the offer through its newspaper advertising circulars.

Dish has also started to promote the offer through USA Today, Adams said.

Having a direct retail tie to the promotion is important, Peterson said.

"Sears, for example, is close to everyone's neighborhood," she added. "It gives people a very convenient way to go for a demonstration of the product. People like to shop satellite. It's not an impulse purchase-it's a very considered purchase."

Sears isn't the only retailer with a programmer tie-in. Turner Broadcasting System Inc. is promoting its newest cartoon channel, Boomerang, at more than 400 independent television retailers across the country.

In an offer that runs through Tuesday, participating stores in the Nationwide TV and Appliance retail buying group will incite new Dish customers to sign up for the robust "America's Top 150" programming package. AT150 sells for $39.98 per month, and it is the only Dish package that offers Boomerang.

Turner will give new subscribers gift packs with videos including Yogi Bear and Jonny Quest, as well as a compact disc of 40 Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. theme songs, including "Meet the Flintstones" and "The Jetsons."

"TBS really values our relationship with EchoStar," Turner Network Sales satellite-division vice president Douglas Lindauer said, noting that Dish was the first to launch Boomerang in April.

DBS competitor DirecTV Inc. started carrying Boomerang last Thursday as part of its new "Family Pack."

In a separate Dish promotion that runs through July 31, new "DISHPlayer" system customers can access personal digital-video-recording features free-of-charge for three years.

The monthly subscription fee for the service-which offers live-television pause and rewind features similar to those in TiVo Inc. and ReplayTV Inc. products-had been $10 per month.

"We've got a great product [with DISHPlayer]," Peterson said, "but not a lot of people are aware of it yet."

EchoStar is the first DBS company to integrate a personal-video recorder into its receiver, although DirecTV plans to build a TiVo system into a future box.

Dish customers who had previously purchased DISHPlayers can buy three-year subscriptions for $99, the company said. EchoStar will promote the DISHPlayer offer through retail ad slicks and on its Web site.

Peterson also said EchoStar had started to run customer-testimonial ads for its "Dish Latino" Spanish-language programming package in print, radio and television earlier this month.