Although Cablevision Systems remains close-lipped on the topic of VOOM, its emerging direct broadcast satellite service, new information keeps popping up from the camp of its retail partner. According to an internal memo sent to Sears sales associates, which was obtained by Cable World, the retailer will not in fact be selling the requisite hardware, but will instead be hawking a “starter kit” of sorts for $49.99. Merely a certificate of intent to buy into the service, the kit functions as a down payment on the service, with the balance of $700 to be paid to VOOM prior to installation. (Sears has a similar arrangement with the Dish Network.) Upon payment of the balance, the subscriber gets fitted out with a satellite dish, a high-definition receiver and remote and a digital antenna for off-air reception, all of which are then installed by a VOOM-approved contractor. As is spelled out in the document, launch of the service is slated for “early-mid-October.” A sales associate help line referenced in the Sears memo was active as of last week. A representative who identified herself as Jeanine verified that VOOM was in the offing, but said that she “could not supply further details to the public at this time.” The VOOM launch will introduce 28 to 30 hi-def channels, of which 21 will be exclusive to the service. Select channels include HD Rave, the first hi-def music channel; HD Ultra, a fashion/home/travel play; the horror-centric HD Monsters; and an extreme sports channel called HD Rush. People with knowledge of the service say that most of the major cable networks, including Viacom and Turner’s networks, have signed deals for carriage. Newer nets such as the NFL Network and the Tennis Channel are aboard as well. VOOM service will be available exclusively through Sears from the October launch through January 2004. Early adopters will receive an incentive package that includes the standard service, plus all five HD plus packs at no charge.

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