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DirecTV’s $7,500 Plan

Despite the skeptics, DirecTV Inc. sees a group of upscale consumers clamoring to fork over $7,500-a-year for its new elite Titanium program package. Just days after unveiling the all-inclusive service, the satellite provider said it’s received roughly 1,000 inquiries about it.

“It’s been so huge with us doing virtually one press release,” said David Hill, president of DirecTV Entertainment.

Not for penny-pinchers, DirecTV Titanium is aimed at the affluent TV junkie who wants absolutely all the programming the satellite provider has to offer — and is willing to shell out the non-refundable, four-digit annual subscription fee upfront.

That fee comes with its privileges. It provides for luxury service, including a dedicated 24-hour concierge, “like a concierge at a hotel, so if you want something, they go and fix it for you,” Hill said.

Apart from that pampering, the Titanium package will include: unlimited access to every channel DirecTV carries; unlimited access to all pay-per-view movies, events and sports packages; adult services; HDTV channels; up to 10 receivers, including high-definition digital video recorders; priority “white glove” service and immediate VIP installation.

“They all sit there with white gloves on, and I’m trying to get them tuxedos and ball gowns but they refuse to do that,” Hill joked about Titanium’s elite corp of customer reps.

DirecTV is tying the debut to the official release of Superman Returns June 28. Last week, it previewed Titanium at the Superman Returns world premiere at the Mann Village Theater in Westwood, Calif., where “Liquid Titanium” drinks were served.

Compared to DirecTV Titanium, the priciest programming packages offered by Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network cost chump change. Their top-end packages range from $100 to roughly $105 a month, or about $1,200 annually, a fraction of Titanium’s $7,500.

There was some skepticism last week about how serious DirecTV is about Titanium.

“It’s a cute PR stunt: nothing more and nothing less,” said Bruce Leichtman, president of Leichtman Research Inc. “That’s a ludicrous price.”

But Hill brushed off that talk, citing the interest already. “This is something, obviously that there is a market for,” he said.

Hill said he got the idea in December at a dinner for News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin in Hollywood also attended by high-powered agents, actors and managers. People kept coming up to tell Hill they loved DirecTV, but were tired of having to place separate orders for pay-per-view movies and the various sports tiers.

“Why can’t I just get one package?” Hill recalled being asked.

He heard similar comments while having drinks with several NASCAR team owners.

DirecTV will initially cap its Titanium subscribers at 750 “to make sure our customer service is 200%,” Hill said. It will slowly ramp up to 1,000 customers, and then 1,500. Would-be Titanium subscribers can ask about the service on DirecTV’s Web site.

Cable has seen some luxury demand. Digital Cable Extreme, a new deluxe program package from Time Warner, is starting with a Los Angeles debut in late summer or early fall, spokesman Keith Cocozza said. It will price out at about $105 a month for all tiers, four pay channels, an HD DVR and service-protection plan.

Add in nine more HD DVRs, to make it comparable to Titanium, and high-speed data and phone service — and on-demand services DirecTV doesn’t have — and the lineup prices at $2,916 a year, Cocozza said.

“For less than half of what DirecTV’s charging for just video service, you can get the full triple play and most complete package for under $3,000 a year,” he said.