Cable Operators

DirecTV Forges on With HD

3/30/2007 8:00 PM Eastern

DirecTV Group chief financial officer Michael Palkovic said that the direct-broadcast satellite giant is moving ahead with plans to launch 100 HDTV channels by the end of the year, but conceded some of those channels will be multiple feeds from sports packages such as “NFL Sunday Ticket.”

DirecTV already has about 70 HD channels under contract, Palkovic said, and that number is growing. But when asked whether the Sunday Ticket out-of-market National Football League package would count as 13 separate HD channels — the package airs 13 out of market games each week — Palkovic said it would.

“That's the way you would count that,” Palkovic said at the Banc of America Securities Media, Telecommunications & Entertainment Conference in New York last Wednesday, adding that 70 or 80 of the HD channels would be considered year-round.

Palkovic added that DirecTV's HD offerings will be far and above those from cable and other DBS companies. He noted that currently there are about 10 national HD channels and its satellite competitor, EchoStar Communications' Dish Network, offers those packages, as well as about 10 Voom channels, the HD offering from Rainbow Media Holdings. Further differentiating DirecTV's HD package is that the channels will be compelling, he said.

“First of all, there are no Voom channels, there is nothing like that that people would consider not really quality channels,” Palkovic said. “We're talking USA [Network], Sci Fi [Channel], some of the Turner networks, The Weather Channel, mainstream programming that's been around for a long time that's going to make the leap to HD.”

Earlier, Palkovic said that while DirecTV continues to look for a high-speed Internet product to offer customers, it is not a top short-term priority. That distinction belongs to its video business.

Palkovic added that so far, DirecTV has not found a compelling broadband solution, but would be a willing partner with a company that develops a feasible wireless broadband product that brings portability and moblity to DirecTV customers.

September