TONY CONSILLIO / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
The waiting area at Time Warner Oceanic Cable's Mililani headquarters saw heavy traffic for HDTV boxes yesterday after the cable operator struck a deal with KGMB-TV to carry tomorrow's Super Bowl broadcast in high definition.
Super Bowl fans rush to score HDTV for game
Oceanic scrambles to deliver converters likely to sell out today
Oceanic Time Warner Cable sold roughly four times as many high-definition cable boxes yesterday as it normally does in a week, in the wake of an agreement with KGMB-TV to broadcast tomorrow's Super Bowl in high definition.
Although an estimated 25,000 Hawaii households already have HDTV, new and existing customers scrambled to snatch up one of 2,000 HD boxes in stock at Oceanic, resulting in long lines at the company's four locations. Television retailers saw a surge in sales as well yesterday, and were bracing for more today.
Oceanic's Mililani Tech Park headquarters had about 30 customers at any given time yesterday -- three times as many as on an average day.
Employees at Mililani and counters at Ala Moana Center, Windward City Shopping Center and Koko Marina Shopping Center rushed to field calls and accommodate customers switching out their standard digital cable boxes for HD converters, said Norman Santos, Oceanic vice president of operations.
"It's just a Super Bowl frenzy because it's the first time in HD," Santos said. "We have people out the door at Mililani."
Oceanic sold about 1,000 HD converter boxes yesterday, up from the 250 it normally sells in a week. It has about 1,000 left in the warehouse, which is expect to sell out today.
At the busiest counter at Sears Roebuck & Co. at Ala Moana Center, customers stood in line for as long as an hour. Oceanic workers made three runs to Sears yesterday to drop off additional HD boxes.
Gerri Kitsu of Hawaii Kai waited in a line of about 30 people at the end of the day yesterday to try to surprise her husband with a new HD box before the family's Super Bowl party.
"I wish they had told us that the HDTVs needed HD boxes when I bought it, so I wouldn't be here," Kitsu said. "I'm No. 43, and hopefully they'll still have boxes left."
Meanwhile, Kakaako resident Michael Dega was surprised to be No. 50 in line to replace his broken HD box yesterday afternoon.
"I usually just cruise in here and there's maybe six to seven people here," he said. "This is quite unusual for any day."
Despite the longer lines that created headaches for some customers, retailers enjoyed the surge in sales.
"TV sales are very brisk today, I'll guess probably 45 percent above a normal Friday," said Tom Burba, general manager of Costco in Waipio, adding that most customers bought big-screen TVs ranging from $1,200 to $2,500.
High-definition TV sales were up 30 percent yesterday compared with average daily sales at Best Buy in Iwilei, which has increased staffing levels in anticipation of a surge in sales today.
"I'm planning on sales going up," said Chris Johnson, Best Buy store service manager. "A lot of people shop last minute. It's always the day before that will make or break your home-theater season."
Oceanic has about 21 employees working overtime in the warehouse and converter department today in anticipation of a flood of customers racing to get the last of its HD boxes.
On Sunday all 450 cable technicians will be on call, with about 100 working overtime across the state, Santos said.
"Everybody's on call to ensure the event comes off without a hitch," he said, adding that the HD box should be activated within minutes once a customer plugs it in.