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Marketing From the Sky

by Glen Emerson Morris

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The recent telecommunications bill enacted by congress is a doubled edge sword for advertising and marketing interests. The negative side is that this bill will result in even greater fragmentation of what's left of the "mass market". The positive side is that it will offer entirely new, and in some cases, better ways of marketing.

However, congress isn't the only power about to have a profound impact on the nation's viewing habits. The telecommunications bill is coming along at exactly the same time a new mass communications technology is taking off.

The eighteen inch satellite dish system has sold more units in less time than any other technology in the history of communications. And the mini dish system achieved those sales with prices starting at $700.00. With the price of a complete dish system now starting at $199.00, or the equivalent of two days at Disneyland for anyone with kids, dish ownership is going to become very common in this country, and likely very soon.

The recent telecommunications bill will only help mini dish sales. One of the aspects of the bill is that Americans now have the right to put up a DBS satellite dish regardless of any zoning law, covenant, or other restriction in effect prior to the passage of this bill. Even apartment owners will have to let their tenants put dishes on the roofs of their apartment buildings. The theory is owners will be allowed to charge tenants for attaching an antenna to the roof, but charges have to be minimal.

As millions of American's switch to DBS there will be winners and losers. According to the latest set of numbers on the watching habits of dish owners, the biggest looser is going to be videotape rental stores. People with dishes seem to like to watch a lot of movies, preferably ones without commercials, and especially and ones they don't have to take back. Between pay per view and the numerous no-commercials movie channels the second biggest loser will be advertisers, unless advertisers start a counter offensive, and soon. The third biggest loser will be cable systems, who are now paying the price for treating their customers over the years in ways only monopolies can.

To continue to reach consumers, marketers must learn to exploit both satellite and computer technology. For instance, consider the opportunities a hybrid Internet/DBS system would offer, when combined with the new DVD drive system coming out later this year. A business could operate a standard Website to receive requests for catalogs, and then broadcast the catalog to the consumer from a data channel on one of the satellites. The new DVD drives will allow consumers to record several Sears sized catalogs on a single, erasable, inexpensive disk. Many of the new satellite dish systems can be plugged directly in to computers, and a dish now costs less than many of the better modems.

This hybrid approach will work well because it fits the ratio of traffic between consumer and business. Most of the communication is from the business, to the consumer. A common example is a consumer sending a postcard to a business requesting a catalog. The consumer's postcard only needs to have one line ("send me a catalog") and an address on it, but businesses have to print and mail a catalog that might have cost thousands to produce, and several dollars to mail.

There are three ways a business could use DBS satellites to respond to customers requests for an information; continual, scheduled, and custom broadcasts.

Continual broadcast, for companies that can afford it, is having an entire data channel to themselves so that consumers will always have immediate access the information the need to buy the company's products. This model is similar to the Internet's Websites, in that the company's presence is always online. This method will likely be too expensive for all the but the largest mass market corporations, at least for a while.

Scheduled broadcast is very much like television in that things happen on a regularly scheduled basis. When consumers wants to get a company's catalog, they connect to the company's Website and are told what time, and on what data channel, the catalog will be broadcast on the satellite. The consumer's computer could then be set to automatically to tune in at the right time and channel to download the catalog for the consumer browse later.

Custom broadcast is request based. In this model companies only broadcast information that is requested by consumers. This could be either expensive or cheap, depending on how soon the information needs to reach the consumer. The slowest DBS based delivery might out perform Federal Express, and for less money if properly used. Businesses just need to learn how to use DBS technology to reach more people for less cost.

Like the Internet, DBS systems and the data channels they offer have so much potential that it's not a question of if most business should use DBS data channels, but how. Another gold rush has been started on the information highway, and this time the limits are sky high.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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