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DirecTV Plans 2,000 VOD Titles

Apr 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

DirecTV’s upcoming launch of the first satellite-provider video-on-demand service will include 2,000 movie and television titles, with “as much as possible” in HD.
The service will launch in July for DirecTV customers with current-generation HD DVRs. Networks that currently offer VOD content&mdashsuch as Discovery and Showtime—will have their own VOD “channel” environment. The most popular content will be housed on DirecTV satellites, while the bulk of the library content will be delivered via the HD DVR’s broadband connection.
“We have a commitment for 2,000 titles at launch, and that will continue to grow,” said Eric Shanks, DirecTV’s executive VP for entertainment. “We’re pushing for as much as possible [in HD].
It will be a pretty small subset at the start, because there’s not a whole lot of HD on demand.”
The launch date for customers without HD DVRs has yet to be determined.
In addition to traditional television series and movies, DirecTV plans to encourage programmers to upload topical, short-form video. Such material could launch on the broadband server, then automatically switch to satellite once the VOD interest hits a certain level.
“If all of a sudden a news story about Don Imus is a very high-trafficked clip, the system will push that over to the satellite since everybody wants to see it,” Mr. Shanks said.
Though cable operators have dismissed DirecTV’s plan to launch a satellite-based VOD service as faux-VOD, Mr. Shanks said the operation will be very similar to the cable experience. Programs stored on the satellite will be available instantly, while users accessing library content via broadband can immediately begin watching the program “live” as it streams.
The only difference compared to cable VOD is that users will have to wait until the library content completely downloads before they can, for instance, skip forward to the end of a program. The rate of download will vary, determined by the user’s broadband connection.
To help make the experience more seamless, DirecTV is planning to launch a new TiVo-like feature that will allow HD DVR users to order VOD programs (or schedule any DirecTV content for recording) online or by mobile phone.
“You will be able to browse titles on directv.com [and] have it waiting for you ready to go on your DVR when you get home,” Mr. Shanks said.
The launch will coincide with a relaunch of DirecTV’s music and photos service, through which users can stream photos and music from their home computers to their DirecTV set-top boxes.
The VOD service is part of DirecTV’s effort to take the lead in the HD race, primarily by launching 100 HD channels by the end of the year. DirecTV’s cable competitors have responded by ramping up their own declarations of HD boosting, but fellow satellite provider EchoStar has remained silent about any HD plans and generally declines media interviews on the subject.
“Unless [EchoStar has] a satellite hidden up their sleeve, I’m not aware of any launches,” Mr. Shanks said. “You can track the rollout of local HD from Dish and get a sense of what speed they’re moving, which is slower than us.”

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