DirecTV, APTS, PBS Ink 10-Year Carriage Deal

Satellite-TV Provider to Deliver Noncoms’ Content in Several Ways, Including HD, VOD

DirecTV signed a 10-year carriage deal to work with noncommercial stations -- the Association of Public Television Stations and PBS -- to deliver their programming in a number of different ways.

Beginning in 2008, DirecTV will deliver the HD channel of one PBS station per market as it rolls out HD service. The satellite-TV operator currently provides HD in 68 markets. It will make that one-channel-per-market commitment for all new HD rollouts and add it in the vast majority of those 68 existing HD markets and all of the top 20.

After the digital-TV transition in 2009, when capacity will be less of an issue, DirecTV will start carrying more noncom HD channels in each of those markets.

But wait, there's more: DirecTV will also carry two standard-definition national channels yet to be determined and work with PBS on national and local video-on-demand offerings.

The deal does not include any commitment to carry the multicast channels of local stations, as did a deal between noncommercial broadcasters and the cable industry, but the two national channels can be branded with each local-market HD station -- say, "WETA's Space Channel” -- in DirecTV's electronic program guides.

"We have come up with an innovative solution using all of the technology today and in the future that will provide the local programming on a variety of digital platforms," DirecTV senior vice president Susan Eid said.

Federal Communications Commission member Jonathan Adelstein, who pushed for the cable-noncom carriage deal, was pleased at the news.

"I'm thrilled that APTS, PBS and DirecTV reached this historic carriage agreement," he said in a statement Wednesday. "PBS and local public-television stations provide some of the most exceptional public-interest programming on TV, including news, public-affairs and children's programming. DirecTV subscribers will benefit from the high-quality and high-definition programming they will see as a result of today's agreement."