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In The News

Hephner TV owner asked to testify before Congress on digital signal
The Wichita Business Journal
May 12, 2008

Greg Hephner, president of Wichita's Hephner TV & Electronics Inc., this week traveled to Washington D.C. to testify to the Congressional Subcommittee on Contracting and Technology.

The committee asked Hephner and three others in industries affected by the switch to digital television about how the change has been affecting small businesses.

"It was a good hearing overall," Hephner said Wednesday, just minutes after the conclusion of the hearing.

Hephner's store was part of a National Telecommunications and Information Administration pilot program that offered TV owners a $40 coupon toward the purchase of TV converter boxes prior to the general public launch.

The coupons looked like credit cards and expired in 90-days. Without the coupon, the converter boxes sell for between $50 and $60.

Hephner told the committee how his business "embraced the transition as an opportunity to provide a needed service to our community."

He testified that the transition to digital television is progressing smoothly.

"The transition has spurred an unparalleled public interest in the products we sell and in our industry as a whole," he said.

Cable and satellite services will not be interrupted by the Feb. 17, 2009 system conversion from an analog to a digital signal, but those televisions that use an antenna will lose their pictures without a digital converter box.

Rush for Boxes

Hephner said he didn't know what to expect when coupons for converter boxes became available earlier this year.

Hephner TV has sold an average of 10-12 boxes a day.

"That's pretty substantial traffic here," he says.

Through the end of April, more than 31,000 coupons have been requested in the Wichita area and some 94,000 have been requested statewide. Hephner says many people have requested the maximum two coupons per household. The nationwide coupon total hit the one million mark in April.

Hephner attributes the high numbers to awareness and education about the shift to digital TV.

"(There has been) a real explosion of interest in this technology," he says.

As the changeover approaches, Hephner TV has seen an increase in sales of flat panel TVs. The 37- to 50-inch sizes seem to be the most popular.

The conversion has motivated people to buy the TV that they might have otherwise put off. And the high definition craze continues to escalate.

Ron Zerbe, owner of Don's TV & Video Inc., says his business has seen an influx in sales of the 32- to 60-inch flat screen televisions. He isn't selling the digital converter boxes because many of his customers already have cable or satellite.

Cox Communications has seen steady growth in cable TV and high definition services, says Kelly Zega, manager of community relations.

She says the company doesn't track the reasons people get service, so she could not point to a correlation with the digital transformation.

Hephner says he is unsure whether he will be asked to testify before the committee again.


Greg Hephner testifying before Congress about Digital Transition

 

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