DirecTV to offer Pay-HDTV channels

Currently, DirecTV’s HD channels include HDNet, HBO and Showtime. All but HDNet require additional monthly fees and this proposed new HD offering would be an additional fee above those charged forHBO and Showtime. Would subscribers with HDTV receivers pay the fees? Absolutely, they have invested in a new TV system along with a $700 receiver but they complain they don’t get enough in the termsof great HDTV content. HDTV early adopters are like Tyrone Biggums at a 5 o’clock free-crack-giveaway (watch Chapelle’s Show on Comedy Central for more insight on Tyrone Biggums) when it comes tomore HD content. Even more importantly, many people have only digital satellite as their source for HDTV service since not all cities have broadcast channels and or digital cable that featureHDTV.

ESPN and Discovery Channel are hyping their HDTV channels like mad on DirecTV with house ads that describe the 24 hour programming and the advantages of HDTV over traditional NTSC broadcasts. Whatthey are missing is a deal with DirecTV that allows them to reach the HDTV capable portion of DirecTV’s 12,000,000 plus subscribers. It is unlikely that ESPN HD will launch without a deal withDirecTV and it is unlikely that DirecTV will allow Dish Network to be the only satellite source for Discovery HD Theater. readers have actually emailed us saying that they haveactually subscribed to both Dish Network and DirecTV so that they don’t miss out on one channel or another in HD.

Mark Cuban, founder of HDNet, the only free HDTV channel currently on DirecTV tells that they are “in talking with everybody about carrying them (their HDNet and HDNet Moviechannels).”

Tim Duffy, a partner in Simply Home Entertainment, a ultra-high end home theater and home automation company based in Beverly Hills, says that “In almost 15 years in the AV business I have neverheard the same question asked from my clients more frequently…. When is ESPN going to be in HDTV?” ESPN’s ads are working. Mark Cuban is on record saying that sports is the “killer ap for HDTV” andSimply Home’s clients are proving him right. People want to watch their sports in a bigger and better format. It is that simple.

HDTV suffers from the same dilemma than any new format does in that without enough software for consumers to buy there isn’t much hardware sold. Without enough hardware in use, content providersaren’t as interested in developing content for a new media. It is basically the same story for DVD-Audio and SACD as well as HDTV. With a pay HDTV package that delivers far better 24 hour HDTVcontent on DirecTV more people will have better reasons to upgrade their TV hardware and their satellite package. And without question, if DirecTV goes with a pay HDTV package, digital cableproviders will follow soon thereafter. They own upwards of 80 percent of the U.S. pay-TV audience and aren’t too keen about losing any of their paying subscribers to DirecTV or Dish Network.