Our story involves Howard Hughes and Rupert Murdoch, two of the most colorful– and controversial– entrepreneurs of all time. It begins with Hughes. In 1953, he founded a company which, merging with General Motors in 1985, would become the Hughes Electronics Corporation, which in turn would found DirecTV.
Hughes Electronics, after failing to establish a joint venture with News Corp, Cablevision, and NBC for launching a digital television service to be called Sky Cable, created a division called DirecTV in 1990, and agreed with United States Satellite Broadcasting (USSB) to build and launch a high-power direct broadcast satellite TV system. Thomson Consumer Electronics, the owner of RCA, would build 18-inch satellite TV dishes capable of receiving 175 channels. Hughes built the satellites, which DirecTV and USSB would share for the broadcast of their separate programming packages. On June 17, 1994, both companies began broadcasting.
In 1998, DirecTV bought out USSB and combined the two satellite TV services. A year later, DirecTV bought PrimeStar, another competitor in the satellite TV market. These acquisitions dramatically increased DirecTV’s customer base.
In September of 2000, General Motors, still holding a substantial share of Hughes Electronics but disappointed with its overall performance, gave Hughes executives the green light to seek buyers. In 2001, Hughes negotiated with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which was seeking to expand its Sky Global satellite TV business into the U.S. The negotiations failed, and Hughes later agreed to a $26 billion acquisition by EchoStar, the parent company of Dish Network. The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission objected to the merger, though, citing antitrust concerns. The proposal was withdrawn in December 2002.
In April of 2003, News Corp agreed to buy a controlling interest in Hughes, subject to approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC voted to approve the deal, but with stringent conditions. The satellite TV provider must accept arbitration for disputes with broadcast TV networks, and must be neutral in transmitting content, not favoring its own networks.
The following year, Hughes decided to concentrate on its satellite TV business, and to divest its other holdings. It renamed itself the DirecTV Group.
In 2007, DirecTV made significant moves into High Definition (HD) TV service. By October of 2007, DirecTV announced that its programming lineup included 70 HD channels, and would have 100 HD channels by the year’s end. In October 2008, DirecTV announced that it would provide HD local channels in 121 markets by the end of the year.
AT&T announced in May 2014, following reports that it had been negotiating a merger with DirecTV, that the boards of both companies had agreed to a deal. AT&T would buy DirecTV outright. The agreement is subject to approval by the FCC, the Justice Department, and several Latin American governments. If the merger is approved, AT&T will expand its presence in the pay TV market, adding to its U-Verse fiber optic cable TV business, and bringing it rural customers who would otherwise be out of reach for a telecom or cable TV company. For DirecTV, the deal opens up broadband internet markets. The approval process is expected to take about a year.
DirecTV stands out from other cable and satellite TV companies in the breadth of its sports programming. DirecTV is alone in carrying the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is a must for participants in fantasy football leagues, and DirecTV provides more coverage of PGA golf, MLS soccer, and USTA tennis than any other cable or satellite TV provider. DirecTV also carries more HD channels– 195– than any cable TV company.
DirecTV consistently ranks high among cable and satellite TV providers for customer satisfaction, and in 2014, was named number one in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. DirecTV has ranked higher than cable TV for 14 years in a row.
Standard DirecTV’s basic receiver delivers your shows in standard definition (SD). The standard receiver includes a customizable on-screen guide that will enable you to search for TV content up to three and a half days in advance. With DirecTV’s channel block feature, you can control what your children watch. With an on-screen favorites list, you can speed up access to your most-watched channels.
HD DirecTV’s HD receiver has all of the features of the standard receiver, plus it delivers content in 1080p High Definition (HD).
DVR DirecTV’s DVR receiver has all of the features of its standard receiver, plus DVR capability. With the DVR, you can pause live TV, record two TV shows at once, record one show while watching another, and fast forward through commercials on any show you’ve recorded. You can record a total of one hundred hours of standard definition TV. With the Series Link feature, you can record an entire season of a TV series with a single click; and the DVR will record all episodes even if the network changes their broadcast times and dates. You can even schedule your recordings remotely, from mobile devices such as tablets, laptop computers, or smart phones. The channel guide enables searching for shows up to seven days in advance.
HD DVR DirecTV’s HD DVR has all of the features of its DVR, plus it delivers video content in 1080p HD. The HD DVR has a big hard drive, so it will record up to one hundred hours in HD. With the HD DVR, you can even watch movies in 3D where they are available. If you connect the HD DVR to your internet service, you can download thousands of movies, some of them up to a month before they are available from Netflix., and you can download entire seasons of the most popular TV shows at once. You can also watch YouTube videos on your TV. With the HD DVR’s Automatic Power Saving feature, the receiver will go into standby mode after four hours of inactivity.
TiVo HD DVR If you already have a TiVo unit, it will work with DirecTV service. If you don’t have one, but you like the TiVo features, you can get DirecTV’s TiVo receiver for a cash payment of $199.00. With TiVo, you can create a wish list based on category, director, actor, or keyword, and TiVo will find and record shows fitting your criteria. Based on shows you watch, DirecTV’s TiVo unit will suggest other shows you may like, and you can use the Thumbs Up Or Thumbs Down feature to tell it what you like, so it gets better at understanding your tastes. If you mistakenly delete a recorded show, you can still retrieve it from the ‘deleted items’ file.
Genie The Genie is DirecTV’s state of the art receiver. It has all of the features of the HD DVR, plus several others that are unmatched by any cable or satellite TV receiver except for Dish Network’s Hopper-Joey system. It can record up to two hundred hours of High Definition (HD) content, twice as much as TiVo. It will provide HD DVR service for up to eight TVs wirelessly. With the Genie, you can record up to five shows at once, or can record four shows while watching another. With the Picture-in-Picture feature, you can watch two shows on one TV. With DirecTV mo- bile apps, you don’t have to be in front of your home TV set to watch your favorite shows; you can transfer live TV to laptop computers, smart phones, and other mobile devices. With the Genie, you can get updated scores from any important game, in any major sport, with the push of a button.
Sports DirecTV provides more complete sports coverage than any other cable or satellite TV provider. DirecTV is alone in carrying the NFL Sunday Ticket, which covers all out-of-market NFL games played on any Sunday. The NFL Sunday Ticket, an asset for any dedicated football fan, is an absolute must for participants in fantasy football leagues. With the Ticket, you can watch up to eight games in HD on a single channel. NFL Sunday Ticket Max, an upgrade available for $15.00 per month, includes the Red Zone Channel, which covers every play within the twenty- yard lines; and DirecTV Fantasy Zone, which will follow your favorite players live from game to game, and will provide updated stats and analysis.
DirecTV provides more complete coverage of PGA Golf, USTA Tennis, and MLS soccer than any other cable or satellite TV provider.
High Definition DirecTV carries 195 HD channels, more than any cable provider.
Customer Satisfaction DirecTV was rated number one in customer satisfaction, among all satellite and cable TV providers, in the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index. DirecTV has ranked higher than cable for customer satisfaction every year since 2001.
General entertainment Though DirecTV provides more complete sports coverage than any other cable or satellite TV provider, Dish Network and Verizon provide slightly more variety in general entertainment.
International channels Most cable providers carry only a few Spanish language channels. DirecTV and Dish Network carry a wider variety of international channels, but Dish Network’s international lineup is far more complete. If DirecTV and the cable provider in your area don’t carry the international channels you’re looking for, chances are that Dish Network carries them.
Apartments Getting the satellite signal requires pointing a dish to the south. Apartment dwellers without south- facing balconies will need landlord permission to install the dish on the building– permission which is seldom granted. For most apartment dwellers, cable may be the only realistic option for multichannel TV.
Internet Because of the way the signal is delivered, it is easier for cable companies to bundle broadband internet service with TV service. Dish Network and DirecTV have formed partnerships with telecoms and other broadband providers, and are catching up rapidly. For some urbanites, in the meantime, cable will be a more practical option for high-speed internet.
Contracts Like Dish Network, DirecTV requires customers to commit to taking their service for at least one year– two years with some of the more advanced equipment. Both companies impose penalties for early cancellation, though they will make exceptions for customers who cancel because of poor service.
DirecTV offers a wide variety of channel packages to meet your interests and budget. Free DVR and HD upgrades are available with any standard channel package, though DirecTV will charge nominal DVR and HD service fees each month. For a limited time, you can get up to four premium movie packages free with any standard programming package. If you qualify, the monthly rate for any standard DirecTV package will be sharply discounted for your first year of service, with a two-year agreement. For a limited time, you can get some of the premium sports packages at no extra charge with any qualifying standard package
Select is DirecTV’s basic channel package. It has more than 130 channels, including A&E, Disney, ABC Family, BET, CNN, Comedy Central, Fox News, Discovery, Hallmark, MSNBC, MTV, National Geographic, Lifetime, SyFy, TV Land, TBS, and USA.
Entertainment has more than 140 channels: everything in the Select package, plus Animal Planet, Bravo, FX, and 7 Spanish language channels.
Choice has more than 150 channels, including AMC, OWN, Turner Classic Movies, and all of the channels in the En- tertainment Package. For a limited time, you can get the NFL Sunday Ticket MAX included with the Choice Package at no extra charge.
Xtra is DirecTV’s most popular channel package. It has more than 205 channels: everything in the Choice package, plus the American Heroes Channel, the DIY Network, the FX Movie Channel, FYI, Great American Country, Oxygen, and VH1 Classic. The Xtra package is especially strong in sports coverage, with the Golf Channel, NBA TV, the Tennis Channel, TVG, and the Sportsman Channel. For a limited time, you can get the NFL Sunday Ticket MAX included with the Xtra Package at no extra charge.
Ultimate is the DirecTV channel package for movie lovers. It has more than 225 channels: everything in the Xtra package, plus Chiller, El Rey, Esquire, National Geographic WILD, Sprout, and 11 Encore Channels. For a limited time, you can get the NFL Sunday Ticket MAX with the Ultimate Package at no extra charge.
Premier is DirecTV’s complete entertainment package. It includes all of the channels in the Ultimate package, plus 10 HBO, 8 Cinemax, 8 Showtime, 9 Starz, and 27 regional sports channels. Premier is everything DirecTV carries, except for pay per view events, video on demand, and a few of the premium sports packages. For a limited time, you can get the NFL Sunday Ticket MAX with the Premier Package at no extra charge.
Of all cable and satellite TV providers, DirecTV offers the most complete coverage of sports. Only DirecTV carries the NFL Sunday Ticket, and DirecTV carries the most complete lineup of regional sports channels. No cable or satellite TV provider surpasses DirecTV in coverage of basketball, football, baseball, professional tennis, golf, or soccer.
The NFL Sunday Ticket Is available only through DirecTV. With the NFL Sunday Ticket, you can get every out-of- market NFL game broadcast on every Sunday, and you can get real-time scores and statistics for every live game. With the Player Tracker, you can track the performances of up to twenty players. With the Mix channel, you can watch up to eight games at once in HD.
With NFL Sunday Ticket Max, you get the Red Zone channel, which tracks every play within the twenty-yard lines for every Sunday game. You’ll get DirecTV Fantasy Zone, a must for fantasy football fans, which will follow your favorite players from one game to another with stats, performance highlights, interviews, and in-depth analysis. With the mobile app in your NFL Sunday Ticket Max subscription, you can stream any Sunday game live on your tab- let, smart phone, or laptop computer.
MLS Direct Kick provides live coverage of all 19 major league professional soccer teams in North America. You’ll have access to up to 236 regular season matches, plus pre-game and post-game shows, and selected playoff games.
Fox Soccer Plus is for the fan of international soccer. It provides 90 UEFA Champions League matches, all matches of the UEFA Europa League, 76 Scottish Premier League Matches, the Barclays Premier League, and the FA Cup in England. Fox Soccer Plus also covers rugby: the National Rugby League, RaboDirect Pro 12 League, the Avia Premiership, and the Heineken Cup, among others.
MLB Extra Innings covers Major League Baseball with more than 100 out-of-market games every week during the regular season. Most of them will be available in HD. With the Game Mix channel, you can preview up to eight games at once.
MLB Strike Zone gives you commercial-free updates and analysis of every regular season Major League game. On Tuesdays and Fridays, you can get updated highlights and live looks at every game.
NBA League Pass provides access to 40 out-of-market NBA games every week of the season, almost all of them available in HD. You can have the games streamed to your mobile device for no extra charge. With NBA League Pass Stats Central, you’ll get game previews, league news, and real-time updates on scores and player stats.
NHL Center Ice provides access to 40 out-of-market professional hockey games each week, the majority of them in HD. With NHL Center Ice, you’ll get the NHL Network for no extra charge. With the NHL Network, you’ll have access to hockey games and player profiles 24 hours a day.
ESPN Full Court covers the top college basketball conferences, with up to 30 out-of-market games every week of the season.
Golf: With DirecTV’s coverage of professional golf, you’ll be able to watch up to four screens at once on a single channel. DirecTV provides an interactive leader board and scorecard, so you can see updated scores for every player while watching live action, and you can get updated stats including drive distance and fairways reached.
Tennis: Besides its tennis coverage on ESPN and the major broadcast Networks, DirecTV provides the Tennis Channel and the French Open Mix Channel. With the latter, you can see up to six live matches at once in the final Grand Slam tournament of the professional tennis season. DirecTV also provides an on-screen match guide, so you can see scores for matches in progress, and preview upcoming matches. You will also get updated scores for matches in progress, and you can see a chart that tracks, round for round, who is still in the match and who is favored.
Pay Per View Sports DirecTV provides pay-per-view access to a wide variety of boxing and mixed martial arts matches. The charges for pay-per-view events may vary, because they are decided by event promoters.
PREMIUM MOVIE CHANNELS DirecTV offers a wide variety of premium movie channels. They are not available as stand-alone services, but can be added to any standard channel package. You can get combination discounts, and for a limited time, you can get all of the HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax channels free for three months.
HBO With DirecTV, you’ll get nine HBO channels. HBO offer original series including Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, along with boxing and mixed martial arts matches, documentaries, and a huge selection of movies. With HBO On the Go, you can stream HBO content directly to your mobile device.
Starz With DirecTV’s Starz Super Pack, you’ll get fifteen Starz and Encore channels. Starz offers more than a thou- sand movies every month, and original serial programs such as Black Sails and Outlander. With DirecTV Everywhere, you can stream Starz shows directly to your mobile device.
Showtime With DirecTV, you’ll get thirteen Showtime channels, ten in HD. Showtime offers sports, stand-up comedy specials, hit movies, and original series such as Penny Dreadful, Masters of Sex, 7 Deadly Sins and The Borgias.
Cinemax With DirecTV, you’ll get eight Cinemax channels. Cinemax airs 1600 different movies every year, with a new movie premier every Saturday night. Cinemax has fewer repeats than any other premium movie service. You’ll get original serial shows such as Banshee and The Knick. Max After Dark is late night adult programming, though milder than X-rated fare.
INTERNATIONAL CHANNELS DirecTV carries programming in Spanish, Russian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, and several Filipino languages.