New DIRECTV satellites will provide local-into-local HDTV

DIRECTV issued a press release (opens in new tab) announcing the planned launch of four "next-generation" satellites that will have the capacity for more than 1,500 local HD channels. The National Association of Broadcasters praised DirecTV, saying, "NAB salutes DirecTV's commitment to serving consumers with local-to-local high definition television. Their leadership will bring consumers the best in local broadcasting in HDTV. We have always questioned the wisdom of carving out 'digital white areas' for satellite households that can be served by local broadcasters. With this announcement, policymakers can plainly see that satellite TV providers are capable of delivering local-to-local HDTV to virtually every home in America."

Chase Carey, president and CE of the DirecTV Group said, "We have led the TV industry in choice, quality and service and are now positioned to lead the industry in bringing new advanced television programming to consumers nationwide. Only DirecTV, not cable or other competitors, will have the capability to bring hundreds of high-definition channels and other enhancements to consumers across the entire country with the consistency, reliability and quality that they demand and deserve."

DirecTV announced that two of the satellites, Spaceway 1 and Spaceway 2, will launch in 2005 and will be in service by the middle of the year. These two satellites will have the capacity to handle 500 local HD channels. The next two, DirecTV 10 and DirecTV 11, will launch in early 2007 and will have the capacity for more than 1,000 additional HDTV channels, more than 150 national HD channels, and other program offerings. A company official said, "These satellites will provide DirecTV the capability to bring local and national HD programming and other advanced services to every U.S. household. Consumers will be able to receive all of these services, as well as existing DirecTV programming, with a single small satellite dish."

Mitch Stern, president and CEO of DirecTV, said, "Today's announcement is one of the most significant in the history of DirecTV. We are reinforcing our commitment to best serve our customers with the most attractive and compelling array of programming services available. Furthermore, with the launch of local HD channels, we will help advance the nation's transition to digital television. Our strongest growth is in our local-channel markets where millions of former cable customers have cut their service for DirecTV; offering local HD channels, as well as a variety of interactive services, will strengthen our competitive position and give cable customers who have yet to switch another reason to subscribe to DirecTV."

Boeing is supplying the four new satellites. DirecTV said that DirecTV 10 and DirecTV 11 "will be among the largest and most powerful Ka-band satellites ever launched. The satellites, which will take advantage of DirecTV's advanced transmission techniques and state-of-the-art video compression technology, will deliver national HD programming and will be capable of supporting spot beams carrying local HD broadcast channels in all 50 states."

Although other satellite operators have listed two-way broadband Internet as one of the uses for their Ka-band satellites (see Satellite Update stories in RF Report), DirecTV appears to be focusing on video program delivery. The DirecTV announcement, however, did say that DirecTV 10 and DirecTV 11 would offer "other advanced services."