CES: DirecTV Details HD Expansion

DirecTV is on track to launch over 100 channels of HD programming this year, president and CEO Chase Carey announced at the CES show in Las Vegas.

The satellite operator already has agreements for 70 hi-def channels, including sports networks YES and NFL Network; major cable networks CNN, USA, The Weather Channel, TBS and Food Network; and all premium movie channels. DirecTV already provides most broadcast network programming in hi-def by carrying local broadcast signals.

“Really, it’s all the channels you watch today in standard-def,” says Carey.

DirecTV said it will expand its selection of on-demand programming using broadband connections to its set-top, and gave more color on its plans to offer multiple camera views during NASCAR coverage this season. It also announced that it will start a new professional sports league for video gaming, which it will broadcast regularly on its “DirecTV 101” service.

“It will be the best players in the world playing on franchise teams,” says Steven Roberts, VP and GM of DirecTV Games. “The players will make salaries, and compete for over $1 million in prizes. And there will be general managers paid to manage the teams, just like other professional sports.”

DirecTV also officially unveiled a new portable DirecTV combination receiver/display system called “Sat-to-Go,” which will allow subscribers to view DirecTV programming while traveling. The 25-pound unit is slightly bigger than a briefcase and includes a DirecTV antenna along with a built-in display and receiver unit that can be removed from the Sat-to-Go unit and used as an extra TV in the household.

The unit is actually the brainchild of television producer and long-time DirecTV subscriber Rick Rosner, who approached DirecTV with his idea and licensed the technology to them. The units, which are being made in South Korea, will be pitched to DirecTV’s “best customers” beginning this spring, says Eric Shanks, EVP of DirecTV Entertainment.