New York-Get-Connected Inc. executives are pitching their Web site, which allows consumers to compare prices and packages for telecommunications services ranging from cable and direct-broadcast satellite to Internet access and long-distance telephone.
The site launched last fall in a beta-test mode. It went live in three top markets this past spring, and it continues to add new local markets every day.
Both DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. are listed as national service providers, and their packages show up in each market where the site offers a comparison chart.
Among the MSOs that have signed agreements are Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp. and the former MediaOne Group Inc. The company is also in talks with AT & T Broadband, GetConnected CEO Tracy Lawrence said.
The MSOs' product plans are still rolling out on the site on a market-by-market basis. In some smaller markets, for example, the DBS providers' plans are listed with no mention of competing cable services.
No service provider gains exclusive-listing status regardless of its agreement with GetConnected. The company aims to list all competing service providers on the site whether they sign partnership agreements or not so that consumers can make true comparisons.
After signing a deal, GetConnected gets a commission for every new customer it signs up through its Web site.
Lawrence admitted that she was somewhat concerned that consumers would use the site for informational purposes only, then contact local cable companies directly to sign up for service. But she added that she hopes the site's benefits will entice consumers to buy online.
"It's an evolutionary process," said GetConnected consultant Irv Kalick, a cable-industry veteran who has previously worked for QVC and cable-guide publisher TVSM Inc. "Over time, people will get more comfortable buying things online."
To reassure potential customers, GetConnected is partnering with brand-name Web sites ranging from Buy.com Inc. to Classified Ventures Inc.'s apartments.com. The partnerships are also designed to attract consumers when they're most likely to make changes in their telecommunications services, such as when they're moving or as they're re-examining their finances after a big raise, Lawrence said.
Lawrence estimated that online households spend more than $2,500 each year on connectivity services, including video, data, telephone and wireless, and that figure continues to grow.
She dismissed the idea that readily available comparison charts would encourage subscribers to churn more often.
"When you research a plan, you tend to stay on it longer," she added. "There's less buyer's remorse."
The company plans to allow service-provider partners to advertise on the site in the future, and it is looking at ways to allow providers to target specific consumer segments with individual promotional offers.
The company also plans to implement a user rating system that will allow subscribers to see how their neighbors like the services available in their areas.
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