DirecTV, APTS, PBS Ink 10-Year Carriage Deal

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."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.