DirecTV Extends Universal Electronics

As part of its drive to unify its consumer-equipment platform, DirecTV Inc. has signed an agreement with Cypress, Calif.-based Universal Electronics Inc. to provide multi-platform remote controls to new customers.

An executive from Universal Electronics would not quantify the size of the order or other terms of the arrangement.

“These will go out with all future set-tops, so it’s a pretty significant deal,” said Ramzi Ammari, vice president of product and program management for the remote-control maker.

UEI, which makes remotes for retail sale under the brand name One for All, has created a remote in partnership with DirecTV’s design group. It will enable direct-broadcast satellite customers to control their TVs, VCRs or DVD players, as well as digital video recorders or other tuners.

“We’re the intelligence inside the remote control,” added Ammari.

This is an extension of the relationship between the two companies: DirecTV has already put Universal products in the field.

“The remote control is an important component of our system that customers use on a daily basis, so it has to be intuitive and user-friendly,” said DirecTV vice president of engineering Roger Lambert.

In a recent interview, DirecTV Group Inc. vice chairman Eddy Hartenstein emphasized support for robust but simple remote controls, indicating the DBS provider will launch advanced services but is averse to deploying any keyboard-operated product.

Universal Electronics has one of the largest databases of original-equipment manufacturer operating codes, Ammari said: 99% of brands and models are covered in the consumer handbook that allows end-users to program for their individual electronic components.

Those who can’t find their codes can call a help center in Cleveland. The manufacturers then use that input to modify new product iterations, he said.

“We think we design forward, so the product is future-proof,” he added.

The DirecTV remote will allow subscribers to make full use of their digital video recorder’s functions, as well as built-in features like picture-in-picture.

Channel up and down buttons used to be the most vital to the consumer experience. With product changes, the interactive guide and cursor buttons are now used most often.

With DVRs, the transport keys enabling play, record and fast-forward functions needed to be most prominent, Ammari said.

Universal continues to research innovation, he added. For instance, future remotes may operate via radio frequencies, rather than infrared signals, so the portable controllers can work through walls, he said.