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Dish Guns for Over-the-Air Viewers With ‘Free’ Converter Box

Dish Network is making an aggressive pitch to over-the-air viewers about to be stranded without full-power analog television: programming packages as low as $9.99 and a digital-to-analog converter box for $40—free with a government-sponsored $40 coupon.

The TR-40 CRA converter box—a less expensive version of Dish’s DTV Pal—is now available for sale, Dish said.

At the same time, it’s introducing “American or Latino Welcome Packs,” with 20 popular channels apiece for $9.99 per month, or $14.99 with local channels.

Where Dish does not offer local channels, viewers could then combine the box with the DBS subscription to watch both pay and local channels.

There’s no contract or commitment for viewers, but they do have to pony up for a Dish receiver, starting at about $149 including antenna and installation,

The potential flood of refugees from over-the-air television could help Dish’s numbers. In the second quarter of 2008, the company saw a drop in total subscribers—the first such drop even in the company’s history.

The cable industry is also poised to snap up viewers. Comcast recently said it expects as many as 2 million people in its footprint to have problems with over-the-air reception.