Las Vegas -- Despite reports that growth in
direct-broadcast satellite system sales has slowed, the industry had a strong fourth
quarter topped off by a solid December.
Industry leader DirecTv Inc. maintained its lead, adding
180,000 new subscribers for a record December.
DirecTv president Eddy Hartenstein added that the momentum
has carried into the new year.
DirecTv's strong fourth-quarter 1997 sales were likely
enhanced by a product shortage from DBS competitor EchoStar Communications Corp.
After surpassing DirecTv in September, EchoStar added only
75,000 new subscribers last month, according to SkyTrends, which tracks DBS subscriber
EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen estimated that the company
could have sold at least 50 percent more product if it weren't for its inventory
Despite an aggressive holiday marketing campaign, PrimeStar
Partners L.P. added only 40,000 net new subscribers in December, ending the year at just
less than 2 million total households.
'Most of our customers do not buy the equipment,'
O'Brien said, 'so our churn rate is higher than our competitors'.'
He also blamed the announcement of PrimeStar's deal
with News Corp. in mid-1997, which 'added instability to our business,'
O'Brien projected PrimeStar would add 500,000 new
subscribers at its current medium-power service in 1998, adding, 'the numbers for our
high-power business is purely a factor of when we get license approvals' for orbital
spectrum at 119 and/or 110 degrees West.