News Corp. outlines its plans for DirecTV

News Corp. also plans to provide more access to local channels and to high-definition television broadcasts and will introduce new interactive TV services, the company said in a filing Monday with the Federal Communications Commission.

DirecTV is owned by El Segundo, Calif.-based Hughes Electronics Corp. In April, News Corp. struck a deal with Hughes owner General Motors Corp. that would give it a 34 percent stake in Hughes in exchange for $6.6 billion in cash and stock.

The deal is pending approval from the FCC, which rejected a proposed deal last year between DirecTV and its chief competitor, EchoStar.

Opponents fear the combination of DirecTV’s distribution system with News Corp.’s programming entities – such as Fox, Fox News Channel, and FX – could mean higher prices for consumers and push small-market cable companies out of business.

In its latest filing, New York-based News Corp. said it would launch new satellites as early as 2006 and no later than 2008 to provide greater capacity for DirecTV services. The new satellites would allow DirecTV to provide local channels in all 210 major markets and transmit more programming in high definition, News Corp. said.

The filing also pointed to the interactive banking, gaming, sports and news services provided by its BSkyB satellite television service in England as an example of the kinds of interactive services it plans for DirecTV customers. Those services would begin rolling out by the end of 2004, the filing said.

By the end of 2005, News Corp. said it would offer set-top boxes with integrated digital video recorders that allow people to store programming on a hard drive as well as pause and rewind live television. News Corp. said it would deploy one million DVR-equipped boxes to customers annually.

Source: Associated Press

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