DirecTV Could Pare Some Networks

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New York - DirecTV will look long and hard at its programming lineup in an ongoing effort to keep programming costs in check, including paring channels that are lacking in viewership, executive vice president of content strategy and development Derek Chang said at the satellite giant's Investor Day conference here Thursday.

Chang said that historically DirecTV had carried some networks simply because cable lacked the channel capacity. But in the current 200-plus channel universe, having an extra network or two that your competitor doesn't isn't the advantage it used to be.

Derek Chang

"In our battle to manage our economics, we will look to repackage channels where we have over-distributed, or frankly just to remove certain channels from our platform if they are not relevant," Chang said at the conference. "Is there a place for channels that only serve a small fraction of our audience? Should we have to pay retrans fees and continue to carry channels which were once considered to be part of the equation when we didn't pay retrans fees? As the marketplace changes, these questions become more important for our entire industry."
Chang added that distributors have managed to whether the storm when channels have gone dark during carriage disputes - he pointed to Cablevision Systems, which did without the Fox broadcasting network for three weeks earlier this year and Dish Network, which didn't carry 19 Fox regional sports networks for nearly a month.
DirecTV itself ceased to carry the G4 network in November - which Chang said has not been missed - and does not carry regional sports networks in Portland, Ore., and New Orleans.
"My sense is that we and all other distributors will continue to take a sharper look at the channels we carry and determine which ones are necessary, which ones may be not necessary or may just cost too much for what they are," Chang said.