DirecTV Shores Up 4K Plans

Ultra HD VOD Service To Debut This Year
DirecTV Genie HDDVR 400x300.jpg

DirecTV is moving ahead with a plan to offer a sampling of VOD fare in the eye-popping 4K format on Samsung TVs and follow with an initial wave of live Ultra HD streaming next year, Mike White, DirecTV’s president and CEO said on the company’s third quarter earnings call Thursday.

“We always want to be leading our industry as a company, and 4K is no exception,” he said.

But DirecTV will take a measured approach with Ultra HD as consumer demand for 4K sets starts to heat up.

White said the first, VOD-only 4K product will be introduced in the fourth quarter, noting that customers will initially need 4K-ready TVs from Samsung and DirecTV’s Genie HD-DVR (pictured) to view that programming. White estimated that DirecTV’s 4K menu will feature some pre-loaded movies for instant viewing, and the option to download others.  Comcast is also expected to launch a 4K VOD streaming app on Samsung TVs before the end of the year.

“The preloaded number of movies is…flexible, so if demand is strong, we can preload more movies into the hard drive,” he said, noting that DirecTV’s already secured rights for “maybe a dozen” movies in the 4K format. “It's very early days for 4K.”

The DirecTV-14 satellite, scheduled to launch in December and become fully deployed in the first quarter of 2015, will add capacity to offer “substantially greater VOD as well as live streaming,” White said.

He passed on saying how many live channels DirecTV might offer in 4K early on, but expects initial live Ultra HD to be “event driven.”

White said DirecTV, which lost 28,000 net subs in the quarter in part to aggressive offers from competitors and tighter credit policies, is also on track to roll out a Hispanic OTT service (VOD and live linear) toward the end of the quarter. White said DirecTV’s analysis of the Hispanic population shows that it tends to include “above-average users of broadband.” 

“I think we'll get a lot of learnings as we go in 2015 from that initiative. And again, the technology is scalable and could be leveraged on other initiatives down the road,” White said.