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Sat TV show faces brave new world.

LAS VEGAS--Kicking off Monday for a three-day run here, the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Assn.'s '96 Winter Satellite Show comes at a time of profound change in the satellite TV industry.

A tidal wave of companies is preparing to enter the small-dish satellite TV market between now and the end of the decade.

What was once a one-product industry with a coterie of specialized dealers selling the big-dish service has become a business of competing systems sold by consumer electronics retailers, department stores and mass merchants.

The show, long geared to satellite dealers selling large-dish C-band products, now actively courts consumer electronics retailers, who are selling the majority of the new small-dish systems.

One of those consumer electronics retailers, Gary Thorne, president of the Audio King chain, sees the potential for mass confusion among retailers and consumers. He and others in the business come to the SBCA's twice-a-year Satellite Shows in an effort to get some perspective on the rapidly growing business.

During the show, both Toshiba and Uniden plan to show off finished versions of their high-power Digital Satellite Systems and are expected to provide more specific information about launch dates, pricing and distribution.

EchoStar Communications intends to "Flip The Switch"--at high noon Monday, to be exact--to officially kick off its high-power DISH Network. EchoStar's DISH, to be co-produced and co-marketed by Philips, will go head-to-head with the DSS forces as well as the existing medium-power Primestar network.

Tee-Comm Electronics Inc., which is developing the medium-power AlphaStar Television Network, is expected to reveal the exact start date for its service at a press conference Tuesday. The company's president, Murray Klippenstein, has said it will occur this spring.

The show comes on the heels of an FCC spectrum auction that saw MCI-News Corp. making a serious bid to become the next high-power satellite provider. AT&T, which withdrew from the bidding at the last minute, instead struck a deal with DSS co-licensor DirecTv to sell AT&T-brand DSS systems to its huge universe of customers beginning this summer.

TCI, a loser at the FCC auction and one of Primestar's main owners, has made no secret it wants to be in the high-power business. Industry observers say TCI may end up aligning itself with an existing or soon-to-be service, much as AT&T did with DirecTv.

This edition of the show will feature more than twice as many educational workshops as in the past, and Thomson's executive vice president, Joseph Clayton, will make some remarks regarding DSS and its resellers during this morning's opening ceremonies.

Thorne, one of several retailers participating in a keynote panel, said he is at the show as a representative of The Pro Group, of which he is president, and to learn more about the rapidly changing satellite industry. "Those of us who are specialty electronics retailers generally have not been in this business. But now we're in the DSS end, and I want to find out what some of these other DBS players will do.
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Title Annotation:Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Assn.'s Winter Satellite Show
Author:Veilleux, C. Thomas
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Mar 4, 1996
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