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DirecTV Flies High

4:50 PM -- Although some analysts think DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) may not hold up as well as some of its competitors in a recession, that expectation didn't hold true in the fourth quarter as the satellite TV giant added 301,000 net new subs and managed to grow its average revenue per user (ARPU) 3.5 percent, to $90.46. (See DirecTV Vulnerable and DirecTV Posts Q4.)

"The question, of course, is whether any company can remain impervious to a recession of this magnitude," wrote Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett, who expected DirecTV to add 214,600 net new subs and ARPU of $91.35 in the period. "Despite the strong result, annual subscriber growth of 4.7% remains below 5%, meaning that future revenue growth will depend heavily on the direction of ARPU."

DirecTV, which ended 2008 with 17.6 million total subs, posted consolidated revenue of $5.31 billion, up 9 percent year-over-year, and in-line with analyst expectations. But net income dipped to $332 million, versus $532 million in the previous quarter, while acquisition costs rose to $724, versus $715 in the previous period -- the only negatives in what was a blow-out quarter.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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