Sharp Electronics gave cable an indirect holiday gift when it took out a six-page HDTV ad in the Dec. 6 issue of The New Yorker that served as a kind of consumer’s guide to hi-def. Too bad they got the cable part of the equation wrong—or, more precisely, not exactly right. The wording in the ad, titled "High-Definition LCD TVs for Dummies," is murky in the section that explains how to get HD service. To get cable networks’ HD signals, the ad says, "you need the following: an HDTV service contract with your cable or satellite company. Unlike broadcast, this isn’t free—just as with all cable/satellite services." Although a cable customer needs to pay for digital service to receive HDTV signals, no "service contract" is required. Cable consistently has lauded its policy of no service contracts to keep customers from drifting to DBS. Because of cable’s diverse service plans, it’s not easy to explain how to get HD in one sentence, particularly when that sentence includes a reference to satellite. But Char Beales, president and CEO of CTAM, says she isn’t overly concerned about the ad. "I wouldn’t choose this wording, I don’t love this wording," Beales says. "But I don’t think it’s flat-out wrong." Operators can’t control what CE companies put in their ads, but they can sharpen their own marketing campaigns. Maybe they can even convince Sharp’s copywriters to become cable subscribers.

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