DirecTV Adding Satellites

The demand for HDTV is growing faster than that for broadband services. One result is that more satellites may soon be converted for DirecTV high-definition broadcasting.

Several Hughes Electronics Corporation "Spaceway" satellites that had been intended for data transmission will be reconfigured for the broadcast of advanced television programming, according to an announcement made November 4. The plan will emphasize HDTV over Internet services, and should include local HD broadcasts via satellite service DirecTV.

Re-purposing the satellites is part of a larger plan to expand the direct broadcast satellite service's subscribership. News Corp. Ltd. soon may acquire Hughes Electronics, pending regulatory approval. A long acquistion campaign by rival DBS service EchoStar earlier this year ended in frustration for both would-be partners when federal regulators blocked the merger on anti-trust grounds. An acquisition by News Corp. would give that company high-definition capabilities that it now lacks.

The communications satellites in question are part of Hughes' $1.5 billion Spaceway project. The satellites "fill a big need for DirecTV," CEO Eddy Hartenstein told attendees at the recent SkyForum satellite industry conference.