Satellite Soldier's New Weapons

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DirecTV execs believe they'll take a big bite out of the cable business in the upcoming year. New compression technology is helping DirecTV roll out local HD signals. (Detroit was the first city to benefit.) Interactive services will expand, and a new set-top box called DirecTV Plus will house more video-on-demand (VOD) content and games. Eric Shanks, DirecTV senior VP, advanced content and services, discussed the initiatives with B&C's Ken Kerschbaumer.


How is the DirecTV Plus rollout going?

We've gotten good reviews. We're trying to make it the best DVR experience in the market because DVR users stay with us longer and they tend to spend more money.


You set aside part of the DVR to deliver VOD content. Is that an attempt to address cable's VOD advantage?

We have 100 hours of the DVR available for the customer and 60 for VOD. It's yet to be seen if VOD actually influences a customer's decision on a service provider. But we feel our demand service will be better than cable's because it has a more customizable experience. If a customer wants more on a subject, they can ask to get more in their playlist; they don't have to shift through poorly constructed menus.


What's next for interactivity?

We'll introduce features to create community around TV and help guide people to popular shows. It will involve people helping each other decide what to watch.


Your sister company BSkyB has found success with interactive services in the UK. Do you think what is popular over there will also be popular here?

Their expectations of interactive TV were seeded long before things like broadband and videogame consoles. Over here, expectations are higher. We may be doing fewer things, but [we have] to do them right.


Where will DirecTV be a year from now?

We'll have more interactive on-demand, and we're finalizing deals for VOD with other networks like the one we have with NBC Universal. We'll also have a game service, more interactive sporting events, and interactive features related to news.

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