PRIMESTAR BLASTS TO $40M

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The battle for the future of TV is about to get much more competitive as satellite provider Primestar Partners more than doubles its advertising budget to nearly $40 million.

Facing off against both cable and a rival direct satellite broadcast system coalition that includes consumer electronic companies, DirecTV and USSB, Primestar will up the stakes.

Two 30-second network TV spots due to break in late April use the "We bring satellite television down to earth" theme and note the lack of equipment to buy.

The rival satellite-direct broadcasting system marketed in part by Thomson Consumer Electronics' RCA brand and shortly by Sony Consumer Electronics requires a consumer buy a dish and a cable converter, then sign up for service from DirecTV, USSB or both. Primestar operates more as a cable company, offering a roughly $30 a month service that includes the dish, converter and programming.

Primestar says it is actually increasing the overall marketing budget to $100 million from $55 million last year.

"We are committed to building a brand," said Don Herr, senior VP-marketing and distribution. "Standard operating procedure says that you need to spend for three to five years to build your share of market and we will increase our ad budget over the next three years to make sure we have a comparable share of voice" to Primestar rivals.

The company already signalled its intent to be a serious player by advertising on the Super Bowl in January. Primestar said its single 30-second ad generated 117,000 calls.

The latest advertising from agency Adler Boschetto Peebles & Partners, New York, has some of the same kind of special effects used in the first set of ads aired last year, but the new spots do more to explain Primestar's difference from rivals.

"This campaign has the same feel, but it moves us more toward the product benefits," Mr. Herr said.

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