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Aerial Salesman Says OTA TV is Thriving

ST. LOUIS: Richard Schneider says people are still migrating to over-the-air television, even as the federal government moves in to relieve it of spectrum. Schneider is president of Antennas Direct, the TV aerial company that boomed during the DTV transition.

“From current economic conditions, increases in cable and satellite TV rates to the expansion of over-the air channels and new technologies, there is a bright future for digital television,” Schneider said in a press release. He believes the recession in conjunction with multicasting is driving an over-the-air Renaissance. Schneider noted that some markets have as many as 40 digital and HD channels available for free. He called over-the-air TV the “new basic cable.”

Throw in broadband video a la Hulu, Apple TV and movie delivery through the likes of NetFlix, and pay TV becomes less necessary.

“Consumers can switch to over-the-air television without missing favorite shows and movies, traditionally found on cable channels,” Schneider’s missive said, adding that billions had been invested by the government and by individuals in the transition. Schneider noted that the early projection for DTV converter-box coupon requests was around 20 million. More than 64 million were applied for; 34 million were redeemed.

And another thing, Schneider said: “FCC reports that only 10 percent of American homes rely solely on over-the-air TV signals, however these numbers don’t take into consideration the 35 to 50 percent of households that use an antenna as a supplement to pay TV. Close to 50 percent of the 114 million TV-watching households are using an antenna.

“Big-box retailers have added or expanded their selection of antenna products. A leading electronics retailer has doubled both the number of SKUs they carry, and doubled their monthly orders from Antennas Direct. While a major wholesale club ran a digital TV antenna trial, selling out pallets of product in 72 hours. Based on this success, the retailer has subsequently begun rolling out Antennas Direct products nationwide.”

Schneider said the U.S. TV market could very well go the way of the United Kingdom’s where half of households now rely on over-the-air digital TV. However, the U.K. roll-out was preceded by the availability of Freeview set-top boxes that tuned, aggregated and organized DTV channels. No such device caught on in the United States.

All the same, Schneider says OTV TV here is growing.

“This is not a dying industry; in fact, new technologies are leading to more antenna innovation in the past 18 months than in the past 18 years. We can’t make antennas fast enough.”

Antennas Direct has doubled its revenue every year since its founding in 2003. The company’s revenue jumped from $3.4 million in 2008 to $7.5 million in 2009 alone, and is expected to reach $14 million in 2010.

Schneider last month said his company was in talks with a private equity firm to raise $5 million to $10 million for part ownership of the company. The company had just bought a 7,100-square-foot facility near St. Louis to create a research lab.

February 15, 2010,“Antennas Direct Seeks $10 Million Investment”
“We’re frustrated that people don’t realize that you can get all these additional new channels that you could not get a year ago. And you can get a better picture quality and the word just isn’t getting out. So we figured if we could give away a few hundred antennas in each city, that’s going to get the word out.”