DirecTV Inc. said Tuesday that it has begun distributing replacement smart
cards that provide conditional access to programming for its more than 10
million direct-broadcast satellite customers.
The swap-out marks the fourth-generation of smart cards since the service
launched in 1994.
The company also confirmed that it will transition its conditional-access
technology away from its initial provider, NDS Group plc, and take it
DirecTV's engineers were largely responsible for the new smart-card design,
spokesman Bob Marsocci said.
NDS said in a statement Tuesday that DirecTV began the transition to its own
technology Monday. It added that the companies' contract remains in force until
August 2003, and NDS will continue to generate revenues from its DirecTV
relationship until then.
DirecTV plans to mail more than 15 million smart cards over the next six
months. It has set up a dedicated on-air channel to instruct customers how to
replace the cards in their DBS receivers.
Periodic smart-card swap-outs have become mandatory thanks to aggressive
DBS-signal pirates who alter smart cards that allow them to access programming,
including seasonal sports networks and pay-per-view movies, free-of-charge.
Electronic countermeasures sent via satellite have helped to curb, but not
eliminate, the piracy.