Cable Operators

DirecTV Eyes 200-Plus HD Channels With Satellite Launch

12/29/2009 6:33 AM Eastern

DirecTV said it will have the capacity to deliver more than 200 national high-definition channels in the first half of 2010, following the successful launch Monday of its eleventh owned-and-operated satellite.

The DirecTV 12 satellite lifted off at 7:22 p.m. ET Monday from a launch facility in Kazakhstan. The new satellite will begin operations in the early second quarter of next year, as one of DirecTV's five HD satellites for the U.S. market.

DirecTV launches satellite No. 12The new satellite will boost DirecTV's HD capacity by 50%, allowing it to deliver more than 200 HD channels, as well as increase the number of local HD markets it can serve and the movie selection available through its pay-per-view services. DirecTV currently offers 130 HD channels, including premium services, and claims to deliver local HD programming to 138 markets representing 92% of U.S. TV households.

Separately, DirecTV this week notified customers that it will be raising rates for many packages between $3 and $6 per month effective Feb. 9, 2010.

DirecTV 12, a Boeing 702 model satellite that operates in the Ka band, lifted off on an International Launch Services Proton Breeze M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Controllers at a ground station in Hartebeesthoek, South Africa, made contact with the satellite and confirmed that all systems are functioning properly. The satellite will be maneuvered into a circular orbit at 102.8 degrees West longitude.

"With the successful launch of our DirecTV 12 satellite, we will have the capacity to dramatically expand HD and movie choices for our customers and further extend our content and technology leadership," DirecTV chief technology officer Romulo Pontual said in a statement.

The DirecTV satellites are designed and manufactured by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems at its satellite integration and test complex in El Segundo, Calif. The satellite operator has a 15-year contract for the DirecTV 12 spacecraft.

The No. 1 satellite TV operator in the U.S. kicked off an HD arms race in January 2007 by announcing plans to deliver 100 HDs -- even though there weren't that many high-def services even available at the time. The move caused many networks to scramble to deliver HD simulcasts and has forced cable operators to expand their own HD lineups.

September