DirecTV To Roll Out VOD This Fall

After several delays, DirecTV's long-awaited VOD offering will be rolled out this fall, according to CEO Chase Carey.

Called DirecTV On Demand, the satellite operator is hoping its initial video-on-demand offering, with a library of movies and TV content, will help blunt cable operators' attempts to gain a competitive advantage by plugging their comprehensive VOD offerings.

DirecTV's proposed launch date has been delayed several times before. The offering will include movies that will cost customers a fee--but the bulk of the content, including series and programs from cable networks, will be free. Users will go to a dedicated DirecTV On Demand channel and be able to search the options via the electronic program guide, then make selections.

Carey said cable operators' VOD platforms have suffered from making it difficult for consumers to find the content they want. But DirecTV's offering will be "a user-friendly experience" with a more intuitive search process "as opposed to just: 'Here are 10,000 things, go find it.'"



Programmers such as A&E and NBC Universal are expected to make their content available free via the service.

While cable operators have offered VOD for some time--including dedicated channels from cable networks and some broadcast fare--DirecTV had to overcome multiple technological hurdles that Carey said have been resolved.

The service will be available to the subset of DirecTV's 16.3 million customers who have an HD DVR. DirecTV doesn't break out the number of customers with the device, which carries an initial cost of about $199 for the hardware.

At an investor conference Tuesday, Carey said the VOD platform will be available before Jan. 1, although he didn't specify a date.

He added that it has been the subject of a beta testing program, and "there are actually users out there with it--they love it."

"We're really trying to create something that is geared towards how the consumers are going to think about how do I find what I'm looking for," he said.

He also said that DirecTV has been able to solidify relationships with content providers by giving them a satisfactory level of control over what they offer.

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