While cable companies have made strides at improving their slate of high definition channels, DirecTV has outpaced all providers. With 95 networks and 35 pay-per-view channels, the satellite provider stands out from its cable competitors. Part of DirecTV’s marketing plan revolves around the expansion of its high definition channels. It started with seven channels in 2004 and periodically expanded to its current levels.
DIRECTV launched its high definition services in 2004, rolling out seven HD networks–ESPN HD, Discovery HD Theater, HDNet and HDNet Movies, as well as premium channels HBO and SHOWTIME. CBS and FOX were the first broadcast networks to launch on DirecTV, offering local programming in the owned and operated markets, such as New York and Los Angeles, and a national feed in remote areas.
DirecTV offers the most high definition channels of any cable or satellite carrier. Its marketing program boasts 130 channels, however this is slightly misleading as more than one quarter of those channels are pay-per-view selections. The 95 network feeds consist of the four broadcast networks–NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX–plus 91 networks. DirecTV also has the most ambitious expansion program. With 130 channels by the end of 2008, the provider has grown by more than 120 channels in four years. In comparison, Dish Network has a stable of only 50 HD channels.
Much like when it rolled out local channels in standard definition, DirecTV has worked to negotiate carriage rights for NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX affiliates in each market. DirecTV holds HD rights in more than 115 markets, reaching more than 87 percent of the United States. DirecTV adds markets in order of size, meaning that New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia–the top five television markets–were the first added. Markets which have not been added receive “national feeds.” The Eastern half of the nation receives New York City telecasts, while Los Angeles broadcasts are received by the Western half.
PBS station is not available in all markets. DirecTV had to negotiate a special carriage agreement with the Association of Public Television Stations to permit retransmission. The satellite system is in the process of rolling out as many PBS affiliates as possible before the February, 2009 digital television transition.
DirecTV plans to launch another satellite in 2009, giving it the ability to expand to 200 HD channels. This will give the carrier the ability to accommodate the introduction of new HDTV feeds of networks that have not made the leap to high definition.