Through the successful launch of its Spaceway F2 satellite yesterday, DirecTV Inc. is keeping the heat on cable MSOs. The new satellite will enable DirecTV to launch local
high-definition television (HDTV) channels from local broadcast stations in 36 markets by early 2006, covering 57 percent of U.S. television households. DirecTV will start its HDTV expansion with launches of local stations in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and San Francisco this month. All of those, by the way, are key Comcast markets.
Together, Spaceway F2 and the previously launched Spaceway F1, will support DirecTV's rollout of up to 500 local HDTV channels. DirecTV plans to launch two more satellites in 2007 enabling the company to deliver a total of at least 1,500 local and 150 national HDTV channels.
The moves by DirecTV will pressure MSOs to beef up their own HDTV offerings in the coming years. However, to match a lineup of over 150 HDTV channels, MSOs may well be required to upgrade their HFC network capacity and/or explore bandwidth-saving techniques such as implementing advanced video codecs (AVCs) or switched-digital broadcast. That's good news for cable industry infrastructure suppliers.