DirecTv Inc. posted its 4 millionth subscriber last
Wednesday, four years after taking its direct-broadcast satellite service nationwide.
Eddy Hartenstein, DirecTv's president, celebrated the
event last Thursday morning at corporate headquarters in suburban Los Angeles by posing
with a mallet and a carnival-style high striker with a target goal of 5 million.
DirecTv has earned more than 50 percent market share in the
DBS marketplace, overshadowing PrimeStar Inc.'s subscriber numbers of just over 2
million and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s total of about 1.5 million.
But Hartenstein sees his primary competition as the entire
multichannel universe, most notably cable. He noted that DirecTv would be considered a
top-five MSO if the rankings included DBS companies.
And he predicted, "Sometime in the first half of next
year, we'll have everyone save TCI [Tele-Communications Inc.] and Time Warner [Cable]
behind us. We're getting up into the rarefied air right now."
DirecTv's subscriber acquisitions have been up about
30 percent over year-earlier figures. And the company is just starting to head into the
crucial fall and holiday selling season. DirecTv signed up 409,000 new subscribers in the
last three months of 1997 alone.
Hartenstein said he's not looking for subscriber
growth to level off anytime soon. "Three-quarters of our new subscribers today come
from cable-passed areas," he added. "There's a huge market for us to target
Talk of digital-cable rollouts doesn't seem to
threaten Hartenstein, who said DirecTv can bring its new services, such as interactive
programming and high-definition television, to consumers on a nationwide basis, rather
than one neighborhood at a time.