DirecTV Goes VOD

Posted by Sam Churchill on

DirecTV, the largest satellite-TV provider in the U.S. with 16.8 million subscribers, is testing its own version of an on-demand movies and television service that it plans to launch in the second quarter, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Satellite TV relys on a one-way broadcast technology. Their DirecTV On Demand uses digital-video-recorders to create a “virtual” on demand service, but it’s not truly two-way.

DirecTV’s satellites will automatically transmit a limited number of popular movie titles to customers’ digital video recorders, where they will be stored for viewers to order whenever they want.

Viewers will also be able to order other titles, including TV programs, by streaming them from the Web through a high-speed Internet connection on the DirecTV set-top box. DirecTV says that about half of its customers currently have high-speed Internet connections.

DirecTV On Demand will offer about 3,000 titles, mostly through the Web, but the company says it will continue to expand the amount of content available. Only a small portion of the titles will be beamed to viewers’ DVRs through a prescheduled broadcast. Users can also start downloads to their DVRs from their cellphones or their Internet connections at work.

DirecTV’s service is similar to a much more limited offering introduced by Dish Networks. It also uses broadband connections to deliver on demand content, but is limited to pay movies.

Selling highly targeted ads may play a significant role — says the WSJ.

Cable operators already have similar plans, using the interactive capability of their set-top boxes. Comcast, the biggest cable operator with 24 million subscribers, now offers more than 10,000 pieces of program content on demand, most of it free. Comcast offers recently released movies for a fee of around $5.

Verizon’s FiOS television service also includes a video-on-demand component, although with a smaller amount of free programming. Verizon has over a million FiOS TV customers.

AT&T currently has approximately 231,000 U-verse TV subscribers, and hopes to have more than 1 million by the end of this year. It is looking for new ways to bundle its U-verse IPTV service with telephone, broadband, and wireless offerings, so as to give its customers the convenience of paying for all their media and communications needs on a single bill.

IPTV is one of the hottest topics to emerge in years, says Light Reading. In the United States, AT&T’s Uverse has the biggest footprint in the United States but it’s a small player in the bigger world.

The Top Ten IPTV carriers, according to Light Reading are:

Table 1: Global IPTV Top 10 Carriers (by subscribers)
Ranking Carrier Country Number of IPTV subscribers* IPTV middleware platform by vendor
1 Iliad (Free) France 2,170,000 Homegrown
2 France Telecom France 975,000 Thomson SmartVision
3 PCCW Hong Kong 818,000 Homegrown (Cascade, owned by PCCW)
4 Neuf Cegetel France 600,000 Homegrown
5 Telefonica Spain 469,067 Homegrown (Imagenio, now managed by Alcatel-Lucent)
6 Chunghwa Telecom Taiwan 358,000 Orca, Alcatel-Lucent
7 China Telecom China 310,000 UTStarcom
8 Belgacom Belgium 249,434 Nokia Siemens (Myrio)
9 TeliaSonera Sweden 216,000 Homegrown
10 Fastweb Italy 170,000 Homegrown
* Most recent available data from carrier

Last year, DirecTV & Echostar announced a deal with Clearwire to bundle a triple play of satellite TV, high-speed data and voice. Financial terms of the deal, which also allows Clearwire to offer the video services of one or both satellite companies, was not made public. Liberty Media became DirecTV’s largest shareholder after an $11 billion stock buyout from News Corp.

In 2006, satellite operators hoped to win some of the FCC’s Advanced Wireless Spectrum, but the companies exited the auction early, without winning any spectrum licenses. Sprint and cable companies did, however, paying $2.4 billion for 137 licenses in cities including New York, Boston, Washington, Detroit and Atlanta, although Sprint has since distanced itself from SpectrumCo, the joint venture.

Related Dailywireless stories include; Clearwire & SatTV Do a Deal, Mobile Satellite on the Move, TerreStar: I-HSPA for Satphones, ICO Wants Its Mobile TV – via DVB-SH, Sprint Beams Up with MSV, Satellite Repeaters – Grounded In Reality?, Spotbeams & WiMAX Unwire Vietnam, Hughes Launches Switchboard in the Sky, Hughes: Local HD Satellite Troubles, Live Iridium Video from Arctic.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, March 13th, 2008 at 8:54 am .

Leave a Reply