DirecTV May Delay Satellite Launch

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DirecTV may delay the launch of one of its two new planned satellites this year, according to the company.

Earlier this week, during a fourth-quarter conference call, DirecTV president Chase Carey confirmed that the launch of the company’s first new satellite was still on target, set for this summer. But he suggested that the second planned satellite debut may be pushed back.

The company DirecTV plans to use for that launch, Sea Launch, suffered a setback late last month when a $300 million Dutch satellite it was launching exploded at liftoff at sea.

DirecTV’s plans to offer more than 100 HDTV services, announced at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, hinge on the deployment of new birds. At the CES, the company said it would launch two satellites this year.

“We are looking into options for launching the second satellite, and it could be delayed,” DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said Friday. “We just don’t know yet if it will be delayed into 2008. Regardless, it will not change our plans for getting 100 channels of HD up by the end of the year because that that will be accomplished by the launch of the first satellite in Q3.”

But Jimmy Schaeffler, chairman of the Carmel Group, believes DirecTV is underplaying the importance of the second satellite launch and its possible delay.

“It’s ironic: The CES 2007 DirecTV announcements focus on the 2007 rollout of their HDTV plans without any real mention of the delicacy, iffyness and importance of a core component -- the actual launch of the satellites -- and then when one of those launch cycles looks to be delayed, they downplay its importance,” Schaeffler said. “Launching the birds is still everything.”

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