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Wal-Mart Boxes Up for TV Transition

Wal-Mart is not only trying to become the place Americans go to buy big screen digital TVs. They also want you to go there to buy special adapters that will ensure that your old, crappy analog sets that get signals over-the-air will continue to do so when the digital TV transition hits on February 17, 2009.

On Monday, Wal-Mart said its 3,400 stores are stocked with Magnavox -made digital-to-analog converters a week before U.S. consumers start to receive the first $40 coupons that will help to defray the cost of the devices. Wal-Mart said the Magnavox box will retail for $49.98, so coupon-toting consumers won’t have to pony up too much dough. Wal-Mart expects to add a new converter brand “in the coming months.” (See Wal-Mart Stocks DTV Converters.)

But EchoStar Corp. (Nasdaq: SATS), you might remember, plans to offer a no-frills unit for roughly at-cost, as well as a more expensive model with an on-board digital video recorder (DVR). (See EchoStar Bows DTV Converters .)

But EchoStar and Wal-Mart, which claims to carry more than 40 digital TV and hi-def TV models, are far from alone in this DTV converter retail sale endeavor. In December, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said more than 100 retailers were participating. (See Retailers Answer DTV Converter Call .) On Jan. 7, 2008, the NTIA reported that more than 250 retailers, representing north of 15,000 outlets, were “certified” to join the fun.

Additionally, NTIA said 19 box models were eligible for purchase, and that more than 1 million homes requested two million coupons the first week after the coupon program was officially launched.

So how will these coupon transactions take place in a retail setting? Wal-Mart’s B-roll from its Fairfax, Va., outlet might give you some idea.

Cable should be happy. A pamphlet from Cox Communications Inc. gets the star treatment.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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