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Rocket Science

Following some earlier delays , a rocket carrying DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV)'s hopes and dreams of delivering up to 150 "national " hi-def channels blasted off successfully Wednesday via the Sea Launch Odyssey platform in the Pacific Ocean.

DirecTV expects to beef up its HD lineup once the new satellite -- DirecTV 11 -- goes into service in September. The satellite TV firm also plans to tap the added capacity to beam local HD channels to north of 100 markets, or roughly 84 percent of U.S. TV homes. DirecTV expects to offer as many as 200 national HD channels when it launches another satellite sometime next year.

Today, DirecTV offers 92 national HD nets, and local HD in 77 cities -- roughly 76 percent of all U.S. TV homes.

DirecTV and its rocket-launching partner said the launch went off without a hitch, but they are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief, considering the problems another satco encountered over the weekend

Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH)'s HD expansion plans were dealt a potential setback on Saturday (March 15) when the AMC-14 satellite failed to reach its intended orbit following what was described as a "launch anomaly." (See Bird Problems .) Dish later confirmed that the satellite was indeed functional and that its original plans to offer 100 national HD nets and local HD channels to 100 markets by year-end remained "on track." (See Dish: It's All Good.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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