The world’s getting smaller, and so are our home electronics. From flat screen TVs, to notebook PC’s, to cell phones, blackberries and PDA’s, the trend in home electronics is the constant evolution of products to provide better performance from a smaller package. And this trend isn’t lost on television antennas either. HDTV has opened up a new window of opportunity for TV antennas. A growing number of HDTV set owners are canceling or supplementing their subscription-based cable or satellite service and using an antenna to receive their HD signals.
But this isn’t 1971. Many consumers wouldn’t even consider getting over-the-air signals today because they immediately see visions of a monstrous antenna on their roof. But things have changed. Research in antenna development is now allowing some of the first breakthroughs in design in decades. And antennas are getting smaller, more streamlined appearances to better accommodate the expectations of the 21st century consumer.
Outdoor antennas are being designed with all-weather shells to provide UV protection and shield the antenna from the elements. They’re smaller and they blend in more easily with the look of the home. The rabbit ears are a thing of the past (though many are still HD-functional), and they’ve given way to better looking, smaller alternatives. Some antennas are even being designed to hide inside other household devices.
Get the Picture
It is overwhelmingly apparent that today’s mainstream consumer is willing to use an antenna, but his expectations aren’t the same as they were in the pre-cable days. They’ve evolved. I’ve seen no greater example of this evolution than in the popularity of our product, the PF7 picture frame antenna. It’s essentially an antenna built into the back of a regular 8×10 picture frame. As a short-range indoor antenna, the PF7 is a solid product. It performs with the best of them. But being an indoor antenna, it’s far from one of our strongest signal grabbers.
The product was featured on The Today Show in December ’06, alongside gadget heavy hitters like the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii as a gift idea for guys. That was the match that lit the fuse under the PF7. Before Matt and Meredith could sign off that morning, our stock of PF7’s was gone. We asked for more from our manufacturing plant. Before they could even be loaded to ship, they were sold as well. It has taken since early December, but we’re just now getting caught up with the demand for the PF7.
The PF7 found that magic soft spot with consumers between performance and aesthetics. I don’t think the antenna would sell will if it couldn’t perform. And it certainly wouldn’t have performed like it has if it was just a regular looking antenna. But the combination of the unassuming appearance and performance that could reliably pull in the signal within 20 miles was the right formula to make the PF7 shine.
The PF7 was one of the first HD antennas to specifically serve the mainstream consumer. The mainstream consumer doesn’t care about high performance rooftop antennas that can pull in the signals from 3 counties away, unless of course he lives three counties away. The mainstream consumer wants an antenna that performs as well as it can, in a small design that looks as little like an antenna as possible. It’s a simple concept when you think about it- it’s the same one that applies to all of our other consumer electronic trends too- smaller and better packages with higher performance.
On the Horizon
This trend is certainly here to stay. Look no further than our other consumer electronics for proof. Each has continued to evolve and grow in capabilities, while shrinking in size. The challenge for most HD antenna manufacturers will be improving antenna performance while making them smaller and less obtrusive. The industry has long assumed that the technology behind antennas had peaked. We’re now discovering that isn’t so. The research that we have been conducting over the past several years has laid the groundwork for the products we’ll be releasing next.
Our Micron line of antennas, due out this coming summer, will feature some groundbreaking design changes that will allow it to perform as well as our most popular mid-range antennas in a design that’s a fraction of the size. The Micron line will include an indoor model, an outdoor model and an antenna/set-top box combination product. We’ve also got plans in the works for more hidden antennas, inspired by the success of the PF7, due out in the 4th quarter of this year.
This second coming of the over-the-air television antenna is not expected to fade quickly. With subscription-based services increasing in cost and customer service issues at an all time high for many cable providers, consumers are beginning to clearly see the advantages of using an antenna to get HD programming.
Richard Schneider is the President of Terrestrial Digital and Antennas Direct. He founded the companies in 2003, and currently has over 265 dealers nationwide. Terrestrial Digital’s DB2, DB4 and Lacrosse HDTV antennas have all been honored among the strongest in their class. For more information on Terrestrial Digital and for a complete list of products and dealers, visit www.terrestrial-digital.com.