DirecTV Sets New Prices, Packages

DirecTV will raise its rates and rename its programming packages this year, the nation’s largest satellite provider confirmed last week.

This follows similar moves by its archrival direct-broadcast satellite TV provider, EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network.

DirecTV, with more than 15 million subscribers, will raise prices on average just under 4% this year, director of public relations Robert Mercer said. The rate and package-price increases will be different for new and current customers.

In a report Thursday, Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet wrote that DirecTV’s new price for its basic package, “Total Choice,” will be $49.99 per month, up $5 from the prior $44.99. That tier will be renamed “Choice.”

DirecTV’s “Total Choice Plus” offering, formerly $49.99, is now $5 more at $54.99, and will be renamed “Choice Xtra,” he wrote.

But Mercer said those rates and name changes will only apply to packages for new subscribers. Rates for existing DirecTV Total Choice subscribers will rise only $3 per month, to $47.99, while existing Total Choice Plus customers will pay $2 more, or $51.99.

Both new and old subscribers will see their “Total Choice Premiere” package renamed “Premiere.”

News of DirecTV’s rate hike follows EchoStar Communications’ announcement late last year that Dish Network would raise rates an average of 3% to 4% this year and rebrand its packages.

“DirecTV’s pricing action is larger than EchoStar’s in both absolute and percentage terms, and it is more heavily focused on the highly subscribed, lower-service tiers,” Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a report Thursday.

“While EchoStar is holding the line at the low end — and thereby emphasizing its value advantage to price-sensitive consumers — DirecTV is aggressively raising prices at the low end and keeping high-end rates flat, emphasizing their positioning as the premium provider of video, in our view,” Moffett wrote.

The price increases for new DirecTV subscribers kick in Feb. 6. For current customers, the increases are effective March 1, according to Mercer.