DirecTV

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DirecTV
Type Public
Traded as NASDAQDTV
NASDAQ-100 Component
S&P 500 Component
Industry Satellite television
Founded December 20, 1985
(as Hughes Electronics Corporation)
1990 (as DirecTV)[1]
Headquarters 2230 E. Imperial Highway
El Segundo, California, US
Area served United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean
Key people Michael White
(Chairman, President and CEO)[2]
Products Direct broadcast satellite, Pay television, Pay-per-view
Revenue
  • Increase US$ 31.754 billion (2013)[3]
  • Increase US$ 29.74 billion (2012)[3]
Operating income
  • Increase US$ 5.15 billion (2013)[3]
  • Increase US$ 5.085 billion (2012)[3]
Net income
  • Decrease US$ 2.859 billion (2013)[3]
  • Increase US$ 2.949 billion (2012)[3]
Total assets
  • Increase US$ 21.905 billion (2013)[4]
  • Increase US$ 20.555 billion (2012)[3]
Total equity
  • US$ -6.544 billion (2013)[4]
Employees 27,200 (2013)[2]
Subsidiaries DirecTV U.S.
DirecTV Latin America
DirecTV Sports Networks
Game Show Network LLC (42%)
Website www.directv.com
A standard DirecTV satellite dish with Dual LNB on a roof

DirecTV is an American direct broadcast satellite service provider and broadcaster based in El Segundo, California. Its satellite service, launched on June 17, 1994, transmits digital satellite television and audio to households in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.[5][6] Its primary competitors are Dish Network and cable television providers. It was announced on May 18, 2014, that DirecTV may possibly be acquired by AT&T, Inc., in a transaction valued at $48.5 billion that is subject to federal approval.[7]

General information[edit]

DirecTV provides television and audio services to subscribers through satellite transmissions. Services include the equivalent of many local television stations, broadcast television networks, subscription television services, satellite radio services, and private video services. Subscribers have access to hundreds of channels, so its competitors are cable television service and other satellite-based services.[8]

Most subscribers use reception antennas which are much smaller than the first generation antennas, which were typically a few yards (meters) across. Advances in antenna technology, including fractal antennas, have allowed a general reduction in antenna size across all industries and applications. Receiving equipment includes a satellite dish, an integrated receiver/decoder and a DirecTV access card, which is necessary to operate the receiver/decoder.[9]

Consumers who purchase DirecTV subscribe to various packages of DirecTV programming for which the subscriber pays a monthly fee. Additional monthly fees may include a protection plan (which provides for repair or replacement of consumer-leased equipment from damages caused by lightning, power surges, floods, etc.), DVR, additional receivers, HD channels, and other premium channel packages. A subscriber also can order pay-per-view and video on demand events and movies. DirecTV contracts with and pays program providers such as cable networks, motion picture distributors, sports leagues, event promoters, and other programming rights holders, for the right to distribute their programming to its subscribers. All programming distributed by DirecTV is delivered to its broadcast centers in Castle Rock, Colorado, and Los Angeles, where it is then digitized and compressed. The resulting signal is encrypted by DirecTV to prevent its unauthorized reception. DirecTV then transmits these signals to several satellites located in geostationary orbit.[9]

As of the quarter (Q3) ended September 30, 2012, DirecTV U.S. had 19.981 million subscribers and revenues for the quarter of US$5.769 billion. For the same period, DirecTV Latin America ended with 9.666 million subscribers and revenues of US$1.577 billion.[10]

In addition to serving residences, DirecTV offers service to bars, restaurants, hotels, dorms, and hospitals through their DirecTV for business service. The company also offered mobile service for cars, boats, and RVs (DirecTV Mobile) as well as aircraft (DirecTV Airborne) in cooperation with Connexion by Boeing.

Assets[edit]

DirecTV owns regional sports networks Root Sports Pittsburgh, Root Sports Northwest, Root Sports Rocky Mountain, and Root Sports Utah (all under the umbrella of DirecTV Sports Networks). DirecTV also owns minority shares of Game Show Network and MLB Network.

DirecTV also publishes Satellite Direct, a monthly print program guide.

Exclusive channels and packages[edit]

DirecTV has its own exclusive general entertainment channel called Audience Network, and an exclusive 3DTV channel called n3D. DirecTV is also the exclusive U.S. rights holder to sports package NFL Sunday Ticket. DirecTV also exclusively carries the "DirecTV Experience", which includes bonus coverage of Men's Majors Golf Tournaments and Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments, including live feeds not available on other networks such as CBS, NBC, ESPN, Golf Channel and Tennis Channel, that cover the events. DirecTV was also the exclusive provider of defunct sports packages NASCAR Hot Pass and Mega March Madness.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Hughes Electronics logo (1985-1990)

In 1953, Howard Hughes created the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), to which he transferred full ownership of Hughes Aircraft. Ostensibly created as a non-profit medical research foundation, HHMI was accused of being used by Hughes as a tax shelter. Following Hughes' death in 1976, HHMI was incorporated in 1977, and litigation ensued to determine whether it would be allowed to maintain its interest in Hughes Aircraft. In 1984, the court appointed a new board for HHMI, which proceeded to sell off Hughes Aircraft to General Motors on December 20, 1985, for an estimated $5.2 billion. General Motors then merged Hughes Aircraft with its subsidiary Delco Electronics to create Hughes Electronics Corporation. The new subsidiary was initially composed of four units: Delco Electronics Company, Hughes Aircraft Company, Hughes Space and Communications Company, and Hughes Network Systems.

Stanley E. Hubbard founded United States Satellite Broadcasting (USSB) in 1981 and was a leading proponent for the development of direct-broadcast satellite service in the United States. USSB was awarded five frequencies by the FCC, at the coveted 101 degree west satellite location. Hughes Communications, Inc. was also awarded 27 frequencies at the same 101-degree location. After many years, the technology was developed to enable the building of very high-power satellites, and digital compression (MPEG-2) standards were developed that allowed multiple digital television channels to be sent through each satellite frequency.

After Hughes failed to complete a joint venture with NBC, News Corp., and Cablevision, in 1990, to launch the first high-power digital television service called Sky Cable,[11] the company created DirecTV as a separate division and secured an agreement with USSB to build and launch the first high-power direct-broadcast satellite system. DirecTV's name is a portmanteau of "direct" and "TV" (as in direct broadcast satellite television). Hughes/DirecTV then turned to Thomson Consumer Electronics (under the RCA brand) to develop the digital satellite system for the service that would be capable of receiving 175 channels on a small 18-inch dish. These dishes utilized a new generation of smaller, lighter receiver dishes based on military technology introduced by the Global Broadcast System, which predated DirecTV's viability by almost ten years. Hughes was awarded the contract to build and launch the new high-powered satellites, and USSB and DirecTV agreed that the new satellites would carry the two separate programming services: USSB and DirecTV.

On June 17, 1994, the USSB and DirecTV programming services were launched. Digital Equipment Corporation provided the hardware for DirecTV, Matrixx Marketing (part of Cincinnati Bell) provided customer care via the Matrixx Plus department, and DBS Systems created the billing software. In December 1998, DirecTV acquired USSB for $1.3 billion, and combined the two satellite services.[12] In 1999, DirecTV acquired PrimeStar, a competitor in the satellite television industry, for $1.83 billion, dramatically increasing its share of the satellite television market in the US.[13]

In September 1996, Hughes purchased 70% of PanAmSat for $3 billion.[14] In 1997, GM spun off Delco Electronics from Hughes and transferred it to Delphi Automotive Systems.[15] That same year, Hughes Aircraft was sold to Raytheon for $9.5 billion.[16] Raytheon filed a lawsuit in 1999 accusing Hughes of overstating the value of Hughes Aircraft by $1 billion.[17] A $635.5-million settlement was reached in 2001.[18] In 2000, Hughes Space and Communications was sold to Boeing for $3.75 billion,[19] which it later claimed had also been overvalued by Hughes. Hughes later settled with Boeing for $360 million.[20] These sales left DirecTV, PanAmSat and Hughes Network Systems as the remaining components of Hughes Electronics.

In September 2000, GM executives, under pressure from GM's shareholders as a result of its poor performance and the substantially greater market worth of Hughes, authorized Hughes executives to begin seeking buyers.[21] In 2001, News Corporation began negotiations to acquire Hughes Electronics in a deal worth $8 billion, which would allow News Corp. to expand its Sky Global Networks satellite television operations into the United States.[22] Negotiations with News Corp. ultimately failed, and Hughes entered into an agreement on October 28, 2001 to be purchased for $26 billion by EchoStar, owner of Dish Network.[23] However, the deal attracted significant opposition from the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission due to antitrust concerns, leading the two companies to withdraw the agreement in December 2002.[24] As part of the merger agreement, EchoStar was required to pay Hughes $600 million due to the failure of the merger.[24]

On April 9, 2003, News Corporation agreed to purchase a 34% controlling interest in Hughes, including GM's entire share of the company, for $6.6 billion, subject to SEC approval.[25] As part of the financing for the deal, Liberty Media agreed to take a $500-million option of stock in News Corporation that would be exercised upon the closing of the deal. Liberty, the second-largest shareholder in News Corp. after the Murdoch family with 18%, had originally planned to bid for DirecTV, but opted not to upon the agreement.[25] The SEC voted 3-2 along party lines on December 19, 2003 to approve the deal subject to conditions, forcing News Corp. to agree to arbitration for all disputes with carriers of its media broadcasters, and to provide content through DirecTV neutrally rather than favoring its own networks.[26]

Year Subscribers
1994 320,000
1995 1,200,000
1996 2,300,000
1997 3,301,000
1998 4,458,000
1999 6,679,000
2000 9,554,000
2001 10,218,000
2002 11,181,000
2003 12,290,000
2004 13,000,000
2005 15,000,000
2006 15,950,000
2007 16,830,000
2008 17,620,000
2009 18,081,000
2010 19,200,000
2012 19,900,000
2014 20,265,000

Becoming a standalone entity[edit]

In February 2004, Hughes announced its intent to focus solely on its satellite television operations and divest its other interests, renaming itself The DirecTV Group, Inc. on March 16, 2004 and changing its ticker symbol from "HS" to "DTV".[27] In April of that year, it sold its controlling interest in PanAmSat to a private consortium led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts for $3.53 billion.[28] On April 22, 2005, DirecTV spun off Hughes Network Systems into a separate entity and sold 50% of the new entity to SkyTerra, acquiring $157.4 million in the transaction.[29] In January 2006, DirecTV sold its remaining 50% share in Hughes Network Systems to SkyTerra for $100 million.[30] The sale effectively ended DirecTV's 20-year existence through Hughes Electronics as a technology conglomerate, leaving it solely with its satellite television services.

In 2004, DirecTV abandoned the Mexican market, though it maintained 41% ownership of Sky Mexico.[31] On November 15, 2005, DirecTV stopped carrying Music Choice audio-only channels, replacing it with 73 channels of XM Satellite Radio. In 2007, DirecTV abandoned the Brazilian market, with the customers being migrated to the 74% DirecTV-owned Brazilian affiliate of SKY Brasil.[31] In 2010, DirecTV increased its stake in Sky Brasil to 93%.

Expansion[edit]

On January 9, 2007, DirecTV announced that they would introduce up to 100 national HD channels during 2007, all of which would be MPEG-4 encoded.[32] On October 15, 2007, DirecTV announced that they had 70 national high-definition channels available, with up to 100 coming by year end.[citation needed] On October 3, 2008, DirecTV announced that it would offer HD local channels in 121 markets by year end.[33]

In December 2006, News Corporation announced its intention to transfer its 38.5% controlling interest in The DirecTV Group, four regional Fox Sports Net stations and $550 million cash to Liberty Media in exchange for Liberty's 19% interest in News Corp., giving the Murdoch family tighter control of the latter firm.[34] The deal, valued at $11 billion, was approved by News Corp. shareholders in April 2007.[35] Following revisions that increased the cash offer to $625 million in exchange for a reduction of Liberty's divested interest in News Corp. to 16%, the swap was completed on February 27, 2008 following FCC approval.[36] One condition placed by the FCC on the deal was that Liberty divest either its DirecTV operations or Liberty Global's cable operations in Puerto Rico, which Liberty fulfilled by placing DirecTV's Puerto Rican operations in a trust.[37]

On May 4, 2009, Liberty announced that it would split off Liberty Entertainment, Inc., a subsidiary of Liberty owning the four FSN channels acquired under the swap with News Corp. and Liberty's 65% interest in Game Show Network, into a separate company to be merged with The DirecTV Group, reducing Liberty owner John Malone's stake in DirecTV to 24%.[38] The merger was completed on November 19, 2009, with The DirecTV Group and Liberty Entertainment becoming subsidiaries of a new company named DirecTV.[39] On June 16, 2010, Malone exchanged his preferred stock in DirecTV with equivalent amounts of common stock, reducing his voting interest in the company from 24% to 3%, with Malone resigning as Chairman and ending his managerial role at DirecTV.[40]

On Feb 9, 2010, DirecTV dropped Sirius XM Radio and replaced the channel lineup with Sonic Tap audio stations.[41] On April 1, 2011, DirecTV announced it would be renaming its three FSN channels as Root Sports, though the channels are still affiliated with FSN.[42]

Acquisitions[edit]

  • On December 13, 2007, DirecTV purchased most of the assets of ReplayTV from D&M Holdings.[43]
  • In August 2009, DirecTV acquired home services provider Connect Television Inc., increasing its workforce by more than a thousand employees.[citation needed]
  • In June 2013, DirecTV purchased Pennsylvania-based LifeShield, a maker of wireless home security systems, with plans to market the systems to its customers.[44]

Possible Acquisition by AT&T[edit]

On May 18, 2014, following earlier reports that they were negotiating an offer, AT&T announced that it will purchase DirecTV.[45][46] In the deal, which has been approved by boards of both companies, DirecTV stockholders will receive $95 a share in cash and stock, valuing the deal at $48.5 billion. Including assumed debt, the total purchase price is about $67.1 billion. The deal is aimed at increasing AT&T's market share in the pay-TV sector; its existing U-Verse brand has modest market share (5.7 million users compared to DirecTV's 20 million US customers as of 2014) and operates in only 22 states. It will also give AT&T access to fast-growing Latin American markets, where DirecTV has 18 million subscribers. Additionally, the purchase will allow the AT&T to offer TV through both fiber-optic lines and satellites by maintaining the DirecTV brand as a separate subsidiary, and give the company greater flexibility in creating TV/phone/Internet bundles.[47]

The deal will face regulatory approval by the FCC, the U.S. Department of Justice, and some Latin American governments. It is expected to take about 12 months to complete.[48] It is contingent on the combined company's ability to renew its exclusive rights to carry the NFL Sunday Ticket service beyond the 2015 NFL season on "substantially the terms discussed between the parties."[49]

Carriage disputes[edit]

DirecTV has its share of carriage disputes with networks and/or broadcast companies, most of which were resolved, except some with competitor Comcast.

Versus[edit]

On August 18, 2009, DirecTV informed its customers that it would drop Versus (now NBCSN) after August 31, 2009 if a new carriage agreement wasn't made with the network's owners Comcast.[50]

DirecTV dropped the channel at midnight on September 1, replacing it with the message "Versus is no longer available on this channel. Comcast, which owns Versus, has forced us to take down the channel because we will not submit to their unfair and outrageous demands. For more information go to directv.com/versus."

After a series of attack ads by both sides, on March 15, 2010 an agreement was reached between the sides and Versus returned to DirecTV's lineup. The channel was returned to its original package on the service, Choice Xtra.[51]

G4[edit]

DirecTV announced that it was removing G4 (another Comcast-owned channel) from its lineup on November 1, 2010.[52] In its decision to drop G4, DirecTV cited low interest among their subscriber base and low Nielsen Ratings as the primary reasons for dropping the channel.[53][54] DirecTV commented that they were "...unable to reach an agreement to continue carrying the G4 channel and it has been removed from the DirecTV channel lineup."[55] The dispute was never resolved.

YES Network[edit]

On March 31, 2011, the first day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, New York City-based regional sports network YES Network (cable home of the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets) informed DirecTV customers of a pending carriage dispute, which would have resulted in a loss of the channel beginning April 2.[56] After a week of good faith negotiations and a temporary agreement that allowed the channel to remain on DirecTV for another six days,[57] a new long-term carriage agreement was reached on April 7, 2011 with no interruption of service.[58]

News Corporation[edit]

On October 19, 2011, DirecTV informed its customers it may remove the News Corporation-owned channels FX, National Geographic Channel, Speed, MundoFox, Fuel TV, Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Deportes, BabyTV and the 19 Fox Sports Net channels on November 1 if a new carriage agreement wasn't reached by that date.[59] DirecTV claimed News Corporation wanted 40% more than its previous carriage agreement, which News Corporation denied. DirecTV also filed a complaint with the FCC Media Bureau about News Corporation's false claims that Fox owned and operated local broadcast stations were part of the dispute.[60] The dispute was resolved on October 31, 2011, with no losses of any channels. The new carriage agreement also covers Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Nat Geo Wild, and Fox owned and operated local broadcast stations.[61]

Belo Corporation[edit]

On October 13, 2011 it was announced that DirecTV and Belo Corp. were in a carriage dispute regarding rates. ABC affiliates WFAA in Dallas, Texas, KVUE in Austin, Texas, CBS affiliates KHOU in Houston, Texas, KMOV in St. Louis, Missouri, WWL-TV in New Orleans, Louisiana, Fox affiliate KMSB in Tucson, Arizona and 11 other local stations would have been affected. Belo claimed it had tried for months to reach a solid agreement with DirecTV that would keep their stations on their lineups for years to come, but to no avail. If a new agreement wasn't made by November 1, Belo would have been forced to pull their stations off DirecTV's lineup.[62] In response, DirecTV said they were negotiating in good faith and that Belo's TV commercials about the dispute "are nothing more than a routine approach to try and gain leverage in negotiations. DirecTV customers should ignore Belo’s scare tactics and enjoy their DirecTV service as they always have."[63] Like the above disputes with YES Network and News Corporation, a new last-minute carriage agreement was reached on October 31, 2011 with no losses of any stations.[64]

Sunbeam Television[edit]

At midnight on January 14, 2012, Sunbeam Television shut down its link between Sunbeam and DirecTV after talks to increase the retransmission fees paid to Fox-affiliated WSVN in MiamiFort Lauderdale, NBC-affiliated WHDH-TV and The CW-affiliated WLVI in Boston by a reported 300% failed. The effect of this dispute affected an estimated 230,000 customers in the South Florida area. The dispute was resolved between Sunbeam and DirecTV with those local channels being restored to those affected customers at 6pm on January 26.[65]

Tribune Broadcasting[edit]

On April 1, 2012, DirecTV lost Tribune Broadcasting-owned stations in 19 markets as well as cable channel WGN America since a new carriage deal wasn't reached by midnight on March 31.[66] The channels were restored less than a week later on April 4 after a new deal was reached.[67]

Diversified Communications[edit]

On June 5, 2012, DirecTV removed WABI-TV/Bangor, Maine (which carries CBS and The CW), and WCJB-TV/Gainesville, Florida (which carries ABC and The CW) after it failed to reach a carriage deal with their owner Diversified Communications, claiming the company wants 300% more than their previous retransmission consent agreement.[68] The channels returned as of 8 p.m. June 28, 2012, after an agreement was reached.[69]

Viacom[edit]

On July 9, 2012, DirecTV announced that Viacom might remove access to all 17 of its networks (along with high definition feeds of certain networks) that are available on the satellite provider (including MTV and spinoff networks MTV2, Tr3s and Palladia; Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite and spinoff networks TeenNick, Nick Jr. and Nicktoons; VH1 and spinoff network VH1 Classic, Comedy Central, CMT, BET and spinoff network Centric, Spike, TV Land and Logo) if a new carriage agreement was not reached by midnight ET on July 10, 2012.[70] Following the removal of its channels, Viacom claimed that DirecTV made the decision to drop its channels.[71] DirecTV made the following claim on their website: "Viacom is pushing DirecTV customers to pay more than a 30 percent increase, which equates to an extra $1 billion, despite the fact that the ratings for many of their main networks have plummeted and much of Viacom’s programming can be seen for free online."[72] Viacom made the following claim on their website: "DirecTV is throwing around some big numbers that are misleading…Viacom is asking DirecTV for an increase of a couple of pennies per day per subscriber. That's far less than DirecTV pays other programmers with fewer viewers than Viacom."[71] On July 10, 2012 at 11:45 p.m. ET, DirecTV stopped carrying the Viacom networks, and displayed the following message displayed on each of the affected channels:

Viacom, the owner of this channel, forced DirecTV to suspend it despite our many requests to keep it on. We are working to bring it back as soon as possible without an unfair increase to your bill. Disruptions like this are brief. Go to DirecTVPromise.com for the latest info.[73]

On July 11, 2012, in a counter response to DirecTV advising its subscribers to view original programming from the affected networks online, Viacom blocked access to recent episodes of their original programming on the websites of the affected networks. Shorter programme clips were still available. Viacom representatives described the action as a "temporary slimdown" until a new carriage deal with DirecTV is reached, claiming that the online episodic streaming content was intended to serve as a marketing tool for its distribution partners.[74]

DirecTV and Viacom reached a seven-year agreement in the early morning hours of July 20, 2012, and Viacom channels were restored to DirecTV subscribers.[75] Digital rights were included as part of the agreement, making Viacom content available on DirecTV Everywhere. In addition, DirecTV has an option to carry Viacom's Epix movie channel, but is not required to carry it.[76] The financial terms of the agreement were not officially disclosed, but it was reported that DirecTV will pay Viacom $600 million per year, an increase of at least 20 percent.[77]

Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG)[edit]

On February 18, 2013, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that they were involved in a carriage dispute with DirecTV. This dispute was solved with the two companies making a deal on February 28, 2013.[78]

Comcast SportsNet affiliates[edit]

See also: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia#Satellite carriage controversy, Comcast SportsNet Houston#Carriage controversies, and Comcast SportsNet Northwest#Carriage controversies

DirecTV failed to reach carriage agreements with Comcast SportsNet affiliates Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, Comcast SportsNet Houston, and Comcast SportsNet Northwest due to pricing, technical, and legal issues.[79][80][81][82]

The Weather Channel[edit]

On January 14, 2014, DirecTV announced that The Weather Channel (TWC) was removed from its channel lineup, due to a carriage dispute over pricing, and later replaced by WeatherNation TV. On April 8, 2014, TWC was added back to the channel lineup, due to a compromise that required The Weather Channel to remove reality shows from its daytime lineup and replace them with traditional weather forecasts.[83]

Draper Holdings[edit]

On July 23, 2014, DirecTV announced it was in a carriage dispute with Milton, Delaware-based Draper Holdings, owner of local CBS affiliate WBOC-TV and its sister channel Fox 21 Delmarva. It was stated that if Draper and DirecTV could not reach a fair deal before July 31, 2014, DirecTV would no longer be permitted to carry Draper Holding's stations.[84] WBOC and Fox 21 said they were asking for far less money than what DirecTV pays for national networks like ESPN – even though they claim their combined ratings are much higher than ESPN's ratings. DirecTV states Draper wants seven times more in their new contract.[85] On August 1, DirecTV and Draper Holdings reached a settlement, and the channels remain on the air with no blackouts.

Original Programming[edit]

In 2014 DirecTV picked up 10 episodes of original comedy for an upcoming television series Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight based on Peter Ackerman's play of the same name.[86] It is the first original television series to be produced by DirecTV.[86]

Receivers[edit]

In the past, receivers were manufactured by DirecTV and other companies. Other companies' DirecTV receivers have been phased out and DirecTV now designs their own models with companies such as Pace Micro Technology of Britain, LG of South Korea, and Thomson of France. DirecTV and TiVo announced on September 3, 2008, that they will work together to develop a version of the TiVo service for DirecTV's broadband-enabled HD DVR platform.[87] Originally scheduled to launch in the second half of 2009, it was expected to be available in spring 2010 but delayed again.[88] It was finally released on December 6, 2011.[89] The new unit, model THR22, is now available in select markets.[90][91] The THR22 DVR does not have all the features of the HR24 DVRs.[92]

DirecTV typically uses a fixed 18-inch-diameter (460 mm) dish antenna to receive its signals. Traditionally an 18×24-inch elliptical was used; however, most new installations use an 18×20-inch antenna to receive signals from three geostationary satellite positions simultaneously. These systems are becoming more common as DirecTV attempts to squeeze more programming onto its growing systems. DTV is now installing a dish that has five LNBs for HDTV programming and local channels in selected markets. These systems receive signals from up to five separate satellites in both the Ku band and Ka band. After the new satellite, DirecTV 11, is fully operational, DirecTV will stop supplying dual, triple, and five-LNB dishes to all customers and move to supplying a three-LNB Ka/Ku dish known as the Slimline3. This dish will see orbital locations 99, 101, and 103 degrees West. The Slimline3 will be the new standard install dish (for HD and SD programming), while the five-LNB Slimline will be used for installs in areas that receive local or international programming from orbital locations 110 or 119. The Slimline3 looks nearly identical to its predecessor, aside from a smaller LNB.

The new DirecTV HD channels require an H20/HR20 or H21/HR21/HR22/HR23/H24/HR24 set top box (STB). In order to receive the new HD channels (channels added after September 2007), all HD receivers except the HR23 must have a B-Band converter installed. If the converter is not installed, viewers can only receive older HD channels (channels 70–99). The B-Band Converter (BBC) is also not required with the new Single Wire Multiswitch (SWM or SWiM) system, which preselects the satellite and transponder tuning and can feed up to 8 tuners via a single coaxial cable. The "HR" moniker designates the receiver as a HD digital video recorder (DVR) model.

Only the H20/HR20 support direct reception of over-the-air ATSC broadcasts. The H21/HR21/HR22/HR23/H24/HR24 receivers do not have a built in ATSC tuner, but the AM21 external tuner is available. In addition, there is HDMI support for HDTVs with an HDMI port. New STBs also support MPEG-4 standard for HD *Programming. DirecTV also offers the AM21 (an ATSC add-on for the HR21), the HR21-Pro (an HD-DVR with 100 hours HD or 400 hours SD recording capacity), and an online DVR scheduler.

  • DirecTV Receiver is a common standard-definition model. D12 was the last one produced, as this type of receiver is being slowly phased out, according to DirecTV's February 28, 2008 Investors Info.
  • DirecTV HD Receiver (H10/H20/H21/H23/H24/H25) is a receiver which can receive an HD signal and broadcast in 1080i resolution. H25 is the latest version. After a 2009 software upgrade, the H2n series is capable of receiving 1080p resolution. The H2n series is also the only series capable of operating with the Whole-Home DVR.
  • DirecTV Plus DVR (R15/R16/R22) is a standard receiver with a built-in digital video recorder. It contains a 160 GB (new models as of 2010 have a 360 GB) hard disk using the IDE 40-pin connection and can store up to 100 hours of programming. R16-300 is the last of these line of receivers; they are being slowly phased out, according to DirecTV's February 28, 2008 Investors Info. The R22 is a "watered down" HR21 as it can receive MPEG4 and has all the features of the HD DVR, including HD output. However the unit is locked to output standard definition only. In 2010 the R22 is unlocked to output HD output.
  • DirecTV Plus HD-DVR (HR20/HR21/HR22/HR23/HR24), the most advanced everyday-consumer receiver in the lineup, is capable of full 1080p high definition and combines both high-definition and DVR capabilities in one unit. It contains a 320 GB hard drive (500 GB on the HR22, HR23,and HR24) using the SATA interface connection. The DirecTV Plus HD DVR also features Media Share, allowing users to view photos and listen to music stored on their computer (with compatible DLNA server software) on their TV, and Whole-Home DVR Service which allows them to watch any recorded program on any HD or HD-DVR receiver in the house. The HR24 is the latest, with the HR23 being its predecessor. The HR24 like the HR21, HR22, and HR23, lacks an ATSC tuner as the HR20s had, but does support the AM21 external tuner for over-the-air channels. The HR24 can be expanded to 2TB drive on the eSATA port for up to 480 hours of HD and 1750 hours of SD recording.
  • DirecTV Pro HD-DVR (HR21-Pro), the most advanced home theater receiver with HD and DVR in one unit, has a larger capacity hard drive, better cooling and is rack mountable. The DirecTV Pro HD DVR also features Media Share, allowing users to enjoy photos and music stored on their Intel Viiv processor technology-based PC on their TVs. HR24 is the latest (May 2010). Guide scrolling and channel surfing is much faster than previous models.
  • The DirecTV "Genie" Home Media Center HD DVR (HR-34) the successor to the HR-24 features the ability to record 5 shows at once, allows for Picture in Picture, and has 1 TB of hard drive space allowing for 200 hours of high-definition recording or 800 hours of standard-definition recording. A second-generation Genie, the HR44, has been shown but there is no firm release date yet.
  • DirecTV Sat-Go ("Satellite-To-Go") is the world's first portable satellite TV system, conceived by producer Rick Rosner.[93] It combines a receiver, antenna and TV all in one easy-to-carry unit.
  • DirecTV DVR with TiVo Service (THR22) uses the same technology as the HR22 but has a TiVo user interface. The interface is currently the older SD one. This DVR does connect to the Internet, but only for TiVo program guide information. Currently the THR22 cannot download program content via broadband.[92]

Even with the new receivers DirecTV does not offer 1080p on any channels except Pay-Per-View channels and DirecTV on Demand.

DirecTV has introduced a new line of remotes to go with their new receivers.

  • Universal Remote (all remotes control receiver, TV, and two other devices): An infrared remote that is pointed at the receiver to operate and stores device control codes, even when batteries are changed.
  • Universal RF Remote: This remote is essentially the same as the above, but with RF functionality to allow it to control the system through floors, walls, etc. Other differences are that it is also backlit for easier viewing in the dark. Note that RF features only work with DirecTV HD and DirecTV Plus HD-DVR Receivers.[94]
  • RC71 RF4CE Remote: In 2013 DirecTV will roll out a completely new remote, the RC71. While it is backward compatible with other receivers in IR mode, the RF mode uses the RF4CE (Zigbee) technology so older remotes cannot operate newer receivers in RF mode and the new remotes cannot operate older receivers in RF mode.

Former remotes sold by DirecTV that still work for their receivers.

  • Big Button Remote: The standard Universal Remote, enlarged for easier use.
  • NFL Remote: A limited-edition RF capable universal remote control that comes in different designs for each NFL team. It features the colors and logo of one team on the front of the remote, and on the back, that same team's championship stats. Comes with a backlight for easier viewing in the dark.[95]

Access card history[edit]

DirecTV transmits programming with encryption to mitigate signal piracy. The receiver (also known as an IRD, or "integrated receiver-decoder") utilizes ISO/IEC 7816 smart cards which tell the receiver how to decrypt the programming for viewing. In a continuing effort to combat piracy, an access card generation is created approximately every two years, superseding the old set. DirecTV is now utilizing a fifth generation of access cards.

  • P1, also known as F cards, were used until 1997. F cards have a picture of a satellite and the DSS logo on the front.
  • P2, also known as H cards, were introduced in 1996 and eventually replaced F cards. H cards look the same as F cards. H cards were in use until 2002.
  • P3, also known as HU cards, were introduced in 1999 and were used until April 2004. HU cards have a picture of a football player, a basketball, a clapperboard, and a film canister on the front. HU cards originally shipped with receivers with serial numbers above 0001 700 000. These were removed from circulation due to high piracy plaguing the system.
  • P4 cards were introduced in 2002 and are currently still in use. P4 cards are labeled "Access Card: 4."
  • D1 cards were introduced in 2004 following compatibility problems with the P4 cards in some receivers. These cards can be identified by the silver edges, and simply bear the word "DirecTV" on the front (no number).
  • D2/P12 cards were introduced in 2005. This is the current "standard issue" card. These cards can be identified by a two-toned blue dot pattern resembling the DirecTV logo in addition to the DirecTV logo and the words "DirecTV Access Card". This card has a picture of a satellite on the front. The period 12 card is the only card that will work with R15, H20, and HR20 series receivers.

DirecTV has battled with an active signal piracy underground for many years. One infamous event that temporarily hampered pirates was known as 'Black Sunday', which took place one week before Super Bowl Sunday in 2001. Hackers saw a string of software updates starting in late 2000 that seemed harmless, but included code that once complete searched for and destroyed 98% of hacked smart cards. Hacks continued after that event.[96][97][98] On its anti-piracy website, DirecTV claims to have sued over 25,000 end users, including celebrity O.J. Simpson.

High-definition television (HDTV)[edit]

DirecTV AU9-S 3-LNB "Slimline" satellite dish
DirecTV AT-9 5-LNB "Sidecar" satellite dish

Like its competitors, DirecTV offers high-definition television (HDTV) and interactive services.

To handle the proliferation of bandwidth-intensive HDTV broadcasting, DirecTV rebroadcasts local HDTV stations using the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec while employing a newer transmission protocol (DVB-S2) over the newer satellites. This allows DirecTV to squeeze much more HD programming over its satellite signal than was previously feasible using the older MPEG-2 compression and DSS protocol it has been using. This technology will be gradually expanded to the existing satellites as customer equipment is replaced with new MPEG-4-capable receivers.

Receiving the channels encoded in MPEG-4 requires newer receivers, such as the H20 as well as the 5-LNB Ka/Ku dish. DirecTV has contracted with Britain's Pace Micro Technology, Korea's LG Electronics and France's Thomson to manufacture these new receivers. Pace manufactures the DirecTV Plus HD DVR (Model HR20-700, and HR21-700) and LG Electronics offers the Model H20-600 receiver, while Thomson provides the Model H20-100 and HR20-100 DVR receivers. DirecTV has admitted to software issues with some of the H20 receivers and HR20 DVRs, which have been plagued with random problems since they were released in mid-2006. DirecTV regularly released software updates for the HR20 receivers, in an effort to reduce issues to an acceptable level.

DirecTV has phased out its original TiVo-branded HD DVR, the HR10-250, which can only decode the older MPEG-2 signals. All DirecTV-delivered local HDTV stations (outside of the NYC and LA network stations) are encoded in MPEG-4. The HR10-250 cannot receive the MPEG-4 local HDTV stations in these markets but can still receive over-the-air ATSC broadcasts in these markets. After a multi-year hiatus, TiVo and DirecTV are developing a new TiVo enabled HD DVR that will be able to receive/decode DirecTV's current MPEG-4 satellite signals. Originally slated for release in the second half of 2009, it is now available in select markets.[90][91]

Local channels[edit]

DirecTV also offers local channels like CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, PBS, The CW, Telemundo, Azteca, Univision, ION Television (in markets that carry that network), and some independent stations in markets covering over 99.2% of U.S. TV households.[99] In markets that lack an OTA CW affiliate, DirecTV includes WDCW from Washington, D.C. or XETV from San Diego.

Subscribers located where they cannot receive a decent terrestrial television signal and/or live in a tiny market that only has a couple of stations can receive feeds from New York and Los Angeles for CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox, as well as a feed from the Washington, D.C. CW affiliate, though a waiver from the local affiliate stations may be required to allow this, approved at their discretion. National PBS and ION channels are also available.

In the largest markets, local channels are carried on the satellite at 101°W. In some smaller markets, the local channels are carried on a second satellite located at 119°W which requires a slightly larger dish with two or three LNBs or the newer Ka/Ku 5-LNB dish. In a few smaller markets, local stations are located on a satellite at 72.5°W that requires a second dish to be installed.

In late 2005, DirecTV began providing local HDTV channels to the largest markets, requiring newer receivers with a larger dish capable of receiving signals from up to five satellites at once. The Ku-band signals on the newer Ka/Ku dish are received from 101°W, 110°W, and 119°W, while Ka-band signals are from 99°W and 103°W.

Local television channels are transmitted over optical fiber links, Ku-band satellite uplink, microwave, and conventional terrestrial transmission to uplink centers located throughout the United States. DirecTV can provide true HD into hotels (Pro:Idiom). Cable companies have been able to provide true HD to hotels for over 2 years now with the installation of private video networks (FTTP to Coax conversion & Pro:Idiom) or with HFC HD video distribution systems (Pro:Idiom).

Satellite fleet[edit]

DirecTV currently uses 12 satellites. It has a contract with two contractors for two additional satellites to be launched in 2013 and 2014.

JetBlue promotes DirecTV on board Airbus A320 N510JB "Out of the Blue"
DirecTV on board a jetBlue plane.

Marketing and commercials[edit]

Beginning in 2006, DirecTV began a series of commercials in which characters from popular movies and television shows break the fourth wall to tout the service's picture quality and the number of channels available in high definition. Instead of using CGI the original actors normally reprise their roles on recreated sets, and resulting footage is mixed with the original scenes. The productions must be recent, due to the use of original actors, and appeal to DirecTV's "male-oriented marketing message."[100] These characters include Captain Kirk (William Shatner, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), Bill Harding (Bill Paxton, Twister), The Economics Teacher (Ben Stein, Ferris Bueller's Day Off), Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future), Burton Guster (Dulé Hill, Psych), C.J. Parker (Pamela Anderson, Baywatch), Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Charlie Sheen, Major League), Beyoncé (Upgrade U music video), Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth, American Pie), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara, Entourage), Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, Aliens), Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, Poltergeist), Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, Misery), Mini-Me (Verne Troyer, Austin Powers In Goldmember), The Girl in the Ferrari (Christie Brinkley, National Lampoon's Vacation), Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson, The Dukes of Hazzard), T-1000 (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts, King Kong), Hellboy (Ron Perlman, Hellboy), Richard Hayden (David Spade, Tommy Boy), The Black Eyed Peas (Meet Me Halfway music video), Christina Aguilera (Keeps Gettin' Better music video) and Honey Hornee (Kim Basinger, Wayne's World 2). Also in this series of commercials were Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Archie Manning promoting NFL Sunday Ticket, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. promoting NASCAR Hot Pass. Cartoon characters have also been used in the ads, beginning with Scooby-Doo and the Mystery, Inc. gang. Recent commercials have also featured model Hannah Davis in a non-speaking role.

DirecTV during that time also ran series of ads that takes shots at cable television's service (or lack of service). Beginning in March 2010, they did a spoof of the classic game show To Tell The Truth with Alex Trebek hosting the show. The series of commercials both pays homage to the Goodson-Todman game show, and take shots at both cable and DirecTV's arch rival Dish Network, who later sued for false advertising. Dish says DirecTV's ads claim a misleading number of HD channels at a price that does not include any HD. Dish also says DirecTV misleads consumers by saying it can offer 200 HD channels when it really offers about 130. Dish says the ads end with the promotional price of $29.99 a month, which it says does not include HD.[citation needed] Another series of commercials, promoting the 2010 NFL Sunday Ticket package of all-football programming, featured neighbors committing uncivil acts to neighbors who watched the "wrong" football team. One spot had a woman leaving a snack platter for a neighbor on which the food spelled out "DIRT BAG"; another showed a dog trashing a neighbor's property; yet another showed an on-duty policeman knocking on a DirecTV customer's door, stunning him with a taser and leaving him passed out in his open doorway. In August 2011, Deion Sanders began appearing in DirecTV's ads for NFL Sunday Ticket, urging people to switch from cable. These ads originally claimed NFL Sunday Ticket is now "free" for new customers for one year with a subscription to their Premiere package and a two-year contract. In response, on August 4, 2011, Comcast sued DirecTV for false advertising.[101] Comcast dropped the case on August 19, 2011 after DirecTV altered the ads to remove the word "free", changing it to "at no extra charge".[102]

DirecTV blimp[edit]

The DirecTV blimp launched in October 2007 at the MLB World Series in Boston and has been seen all over the United States since its inception. The blimp flies mainly over live sporting events but has also been seen at other entertainment and charitable venues. This second generation A-170LS Video Lightsign Lightship features the state of the art video screen that displays full color video images day or night. This lightsign, the only one of its kind in the world, is used to display messaging and advertising for DirecTV. The blimp has been recently spotted on Twitter as followers track the journeys of the blimp from one event to another. The airship is owned and operated by The Lightship Group, an advertising company based in Orlando, FL.[103]

Customer service[edit]

DirecTV service van, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. DirecTV equipment is installed and maintained by private contractors such as Multiband as shown here.

DirecTV was awarded a J.D. Power award for residential cable and satellite TV customer satisfaction in 2007.[104]

Directv's customer service is provided by many third-party owned call centers both inside and outside the United States. Most of the call centers are contracted to provide agents to answer customer phone calls regarding programming, billing, or technical questions.

As of November 2012, DirecTV does not offer a 30 day grace period for those who wish to try the service. "If you do not fulfill your Programming Agreements, DirecTV may charge a pro-rated fee of up to $480."[105]

Better Business Bureau review[edit]

In August 2008, The Boston Globe reported that DirecTV received 20,000 complaints in less than three years to the Better Business Bureau on DirecTV slipping in cancellation fees.[106]

In August 2010, the BBB reported that it had received 39,000 complaints against Directv in the previous 3 years, and the BBB gave it an F (failing) grade. Many of the complaints concerned DirecTV's early termination fees, billing and service issues.[107]

As of June 2013, the Better Business Bureau has no rating for DirecTV,[108] though this may be related to problems internal to the BBB.[109]

Consumer protection lawsuits and violations[edit]

Washington State's Attorney General civil complaint[edit]

On December 14, 2009 the Washington Attorney General's office filed a civil complaint against DirecTV seeking injunctive and other relief. The complaint was filed in the public interest when the Attorney General's office determined after a one-year investigation by its Consumer Protection Division, that the company allegedly engaged in numerous repeated violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

The complaint alleged unfair or deceptive practices which include, but are not limited to

  • Unclear disclosures concerning rebate terms and conditions,
  • Unclear and/or unfair advertising for use of the term “free”;
  • Automatically extending contracts when customers require equipment repairs, upgrade equipment or move;
  • Failing to disclose finance terms and conditions that the company’s least expensive package of $29.99 per month is only available to customers who meet certain financing conditions and agree to have the costs automatically charged or debited.
  • The suit also alleged that some cancellation fees assessed by the company were considered to be unfair, and
  • That the company unfairly retained consumer deposits made to obtain services. Those who cancel service prior to the end of their contract lose part of the deposit and may also be charged cancellation fees.

The Attorney General’s Office asked the court to compel DirecTV to change its business practices, impose civil penalties and provide restitution for consumers.

The case was settled in December 2010, with Directv agreeing to pay over one million dollars, and to correct many of its business practices.[110] 47 other states joined in a similar suit, the settlement of which required Directv to pay over 13 million dollars.[111]

California class action lawsuit[edit]

In September 2008, consumers filed a class action lawsuit with the Los Angeles Superior Court to stop DirecTV's practice of charging early cancellation penalties to subscribers. The lawsuit claims that DirecTV fails to disclose the penalty to new customers or to existing customers who replace their equipment or add a new receiver, and that these practices are unlawful. In September 2009, a motion for a preliminary injunction was filed to block the company from automatically removing the fees from customers’ bank accounts or charging their credit card accounts without their prior knowledge and written consent until the lawsuit is resolved.[112]

Telemarketing violations[edit]

In December 2005 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission imposed a $5.3 million penalty on DirecTV for its violations of federal telemarketing regulations. It was the largest civil penalty the FTC had ever announced in a case enforcing any consumer protection law.[113]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]