DIRECTV launches new satellite to increase DTH local sports coverage

A new satellite launched successfully from the Pacific Ocean-based Sea Launch platform on March 19 will allow DIRECTV to increase its offering to include 150 channels of HD, including significant boosts in sports programming. The satellite, called DIRECTV 11, is expected go into service in early September.

The additional capacity will enable DIRECTV to expand its delivery of local HD channels to more than 100 markets, representing 84 percent of TV households in the United States. Another satellite, set for launch in 2009, will offer consumers up to 200 national HD channels.

The network continues to enhance the DIRECTV HD platform by broadcasting a number of exclusive interactive HD sports packages, like NCAA Mega March Madness, NASCAR HotPass and NFL Sunday Ticket. In addition, DIRECTV will add more HD content to its VOD platform that will formally launch in the coming weeks.

DIRECTV 11, the 10th owned and operated satellite in the satellite operator’s fleet, is a Boeing 702 satellite and is being maneuvered into a circular orbit at 99.2 degrees west longitude. When tests are completed, it is expected to begin operations in early September, providing capacity for up to 50 additional national HD channels.

The satellite’s spot beam transponders will also begin delivery of local HD channels to new markets across the United States, expanding the number of markets where DIRECTV offers local HD broadcast networks to more than 100 by the end of 2008. The operator currently offers 92 national HD channels and provides local HD broadcast channels in 77 cities, representing approximately 76 percent of U.S. TV households.

The DISH Network, DIRECTV’s competitor, was not so lucky with the recent launch of its new HD satellite. An SES Americom satellite (AMC-14), which DISH was leasing to expand its HD capacity, failed to reach its proper geostationary orbit in March. It is not known for how long the mishap will delay DISH’s launch of new HD channels.