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DirecTV Pads HD Capacity

1/02/2010 2:03 AM Eastern

DirecTV got out in front of cable on high-definition TV — and it's looking to keep the lead.

The No. 1 satellite-TV provider will have the capacity to deliver more than 200 national high-definition channels, following the successful Dec. 28 launch of its eleventh owned-and-operated satellite, DirecTV 12. The new satellite will begin operations in the yearly second quarter of 2010, as one of DirecTV's five HD satellites for the U.S. market.

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.

“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.

Separately, DirecTV last week notified customers that it will be raising rates for many packages between $3 and $6 per month, effective Feb. 9, 2010 (including a DVR service fee increase from $5.99 to $7 per month).

The launch of the Ku-band DirecTV 12 satellite led to speculation that the operator is prepping a 3-D HD channel featuring “an assortment of movies, sports and programs,” with the news to be announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, according to blog HDGuru.com.

DirecTV declined to confirm the report but didn't dismiss it. “I can't speak to what's in the blog, except to say that 3-D is something we are very interested in and we're looking at all of the various pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together,” DirecTV vice president of public relations Darris Gringeri wrote in an e-mail.

DirecTV isn't hosting a press conference at CES as it has in years past, nor will it have a booth, but the company “may issue some press releases,” according to Gringeri.

The cable industry, meanwhile, is working out the details of how to deliver 3-D TV, too. CableLabs, at the SCTE's Cable-Tec Expo in October, hosted a demo to show the transmission of 3-D television signals to different TV sets and home-theater systems.

The market for 3-D TV sets is in its infancy today, but consumer-electronics manufacturers have high hopes for the category. As many as 46 million 3-D-capable flat-panel HDTVs will ship by 2013, according to market researcher GigaOm Pro.

At CES 2007, DirecTV kicked off an HD arms race by announcing plans to deliver 100 HD channels 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.

This year's confab — set for Jan. 7 to 10, 2010 — is shaping up to be a bit quieter overall. The Consumer Electronics Association, which owns and produces CES, expects 2,500 exhibitors for the show down from approximately 2,700 in 2009. The trade group expects around 110,00 attendees for the event, the same estimate as last year, although the final tally for 2009 beat expectations with 113,085.

Among the 2010 CES sessions: an interview with Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski by CEA CEO Gary Shapiro, scheduled for Jan. 8.

 

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