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Charter to antenna maker: don’t tell our customers about cord cutting

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You don’t need a cable subscription to watch ABC, (S DIS) CBS (s CBS) or NBC (S CMCSK) – but don’t expect to learn about alternatives if you’re a Charter (s CHTR) customer. Over-the-air antenna maker Antennas Direct recently wanted to buy some air time on Charter‘s cable channels to explain how TV viewers can access these channels without a pay TV subscription.

“We thought it was a fairly benign message,” Antennas Direct President Richard Schneider told me Thursday. Charter disagreed – and rejected the spot for competitive reasons.

The spot was part of a bigger marketing campaign that Antennas Direct is currently running for its products, with six different spots already airing in 15 markets and plans to show them in two dozen additional markets soon. Here’s one of them:

Antennas Direct has been one of a number of antenna manufacturers that has profited from interest in cord cutting. And over-the-air TV has also started to find its way into new technologies, including Boxee’s cloud DVR and Aereo’s TV streaming service. (Speaking of which: I’ll be interviewing Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia at our paidContent Live conference in New York next month. Check out the full program for that event on the paidContent Live site.)

Schneider told me that the company’s early customers were mostly home theater enthusiasts interested in getting uncompressed HD TV signals. Then, some 18 months ago, more and more average consumers started to look for antennas – a trend that he largely attributes to the growing popularity of online streaming services. “Hulu and Netflix (S NFLX) are helping revive antenna sales,” Schneider said, adding: “Over-the-air digital is really the new basic cable.”

Consumers would increasingly watch the basic broadcast channels for free, and then pay for catch-up and on-demand viewing, he argued. Of course, cable execs tend to argue that cord cutting doesn’t exist, even though people like Dish’s Charlie Ergen disagree. Asked about these arguments, Scneider responded: “Someone is buying all these antennas.”

Antennas Direct’s sales have nearly tripled last year, and the company is expecting to generate close to $15 million in revenue in 2013 – even without those ads on Charter.

12 Responses to “Charter to antenna maker: don’t tell our customers about cord cutting”

  1. Ted Turner, IV

    Did anybody ever make a “DVR:” that works with OTA tv signals? That would solve mountains of issues and help more cord-cutters.

  2. “Schneider told me that the company’s early customers were mostly home theater enthusiasts interested in getting uncompressed HD TV signals.”

    There is NO such thing as an uncompressed digital broadcast signal. OTA is still heavily compressed but not as much as cable TV or those “pizza dish” DBS providers.
    HD channels on C or Ku band FTA satellite actually have a higher quality than OTA as they use even less compression.

  3. I cannot watch the local networks ABC , NBC , CBS , and FOX , without either an out- door antenna or cable , because there are obstacles that block the reception from my area to the towers that are 35 miles away.

  4. Joel675

    So the cable company is the bad guy for not accepting an ad for a competitive service? Does Nickelodeon accept ads from Disney? Does Fortune accept ads from Forbes? Does GigaOm accept ads from CNET?

  5. I’m shocked, shocked that they refused that ad. Given the regulatory capture of much of government at multiple levels by Big Media, of course they did, knowing they can get away with it.

    Except up in the Colorado mountains, I did fine with OTA digital HD in both of the other places I lived in US in recent years – the Triangle area of NC, and the Seattle-Tacoma metro. With indoor antennas, in fact, but they were a little sketchy and needed tweakig from channel to channel. As a long-time radio hobbyist, no problem, but for the general appliance-user audience, a better antenna would have been perfect.

    Even with the occasional lapses, I got great quality HD, far better than what hypercompressed cable was delivering at my Colorado place via Comcast, or the short time I tried Time-Warner Cable in Raleigh where I could do an A-B comparo.

    So of course the Cablecos want to supress public knowledge of antenna choice The same way they supress knowledge of the free-on-cable HD if free-OTA, ClearQAM channels most carry unscrambled by law, but on bizzare, oft changing, and never-listed channels. Like Comcast having NBC 9 Denver on 113-2 up in Breckenridge, until it jumped unannounced, and thus disappeared (without a re-scan followed by a manual search for where they put it now), finding it on 94-7- Until the next month.

    I’m only surprised they didn’t get simple mention of this banned under DMCA and Six Strikes. Or did they?

  6. Mark916

    Bought a nice little 2 bay antenna for my device which lets me watch over the air TV through my Roku. Cool way to stream over the air TV in the house to replace Cable or Satellite.