Digital TV firms seek better reception

While there's plenty of stories being written about TV shows, TV stars, and even specific networks, the cable and satellite operators who provide TV to a vast majority of Americans also get their share of media interest.

While there's plenty of stories being written about TV shows, TV stars, and even specific networks, the cable and satellite operators who provide TV to a vast majority of Americans also get their share of media interest.

"There's a lot of coverage of cable industry developments in general, in part because it is such a substantial part of the media environment," notes Rob Stoddard, SVP for consumer and public affairs for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. "There is such fervent interest in television as a pastime and, because of that, there is knowledge among journalists about our business."

Increasingly, that interest in all things satellite and cable is coming from reporters outside of the traditional telecom beat. "On any given day we may talk to consumer media or sports reporters or entertainment reporters," says Parker McConachie, corporate communications specialist for DISH, "because there are different sectors that are interested in both the programming and the technology we provide."

The only problem may be that far too many reporters take a simplistic approach, pitting cable against satellite, for instance, or the NFL and its NFL Network against the major operators.

"It's a very competitive industry," says Michael Hopkins, senior editor with the leading trade outlet SkyReport.com. "It's not always black and white, because you have [many] different platforms competing to offer a number of different services to the consumer."

Hopkins notes that "the platform providers often have a hard time getting that message out."

Part of the difficulty is that the media often ends up playing into a lingering consumer bias against big satellite and cable operators. "It's not unusual to find consumers who have a strong distaste for their local cable company, but they sure love their cable TV," Hopkins says. "Many reporters come to us with a built-in skepticism about the cable operators."

The satellite and cable operators will get a chance to address those misperceptions in the coming year as the media begins writing about the federally mandated switch from analog to digital TV signals, set for February 2009.

While cable and satellite consumers won't have to do a thing to prepare for the switch, McConachie says there will likely be a halo effect, letting providers like DISH tout their services in these stories.

"Up until a month ago, the digital transition was a trade story," he adds. "But, as more information becomes available to the public, we're seeing more interest from the general press."

Pitching... Cable and satellite

Leverage traditional TV seasonal opportunities, such as the fall new-show launches or the start of football season, to get messages out about the cable and satellite operators

There are a lot of complex public-policy debates taking place in DC about broadcast and cable and satellite operators. Their PR support can play a valuable role in helping reporters understand how these issues impact the average consumer

The February 2009 FCC-mandated switch from analog to digital TV signals will impact a minor percentage of homes, but will generate great interest in TV in general. Have stories ready that reassure consumers and tout the change's benefits

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