DirecTV to Target 'Disgruntled' Subs


No matter what happens on the merger front, DirecTV Inc. will continue to take aim at its multichannel competitors.

The direct-broadcast satellite provider — now dealing with the aftershocks of last Thursday's Federal Communications Commission decision to shoot down parent Hughes Electronics Corp.'s planned merger with EchoStar Communications Corp. — will nonetheless roll out a fourth-quarter marketing effort aimed at "disgruntled" cable subscribers.

The push will consist of network television and regional print ads aimed specifically at residential customers. There will also be supplemental local TV buys in 30 key DirecTV markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, DirecTV spokesman Bob Marsocci said.

But there are no specific plans to target markets served by Adelphia Communications Corp., a now-bankrupt MSO beset by a massive accounting scandal, Marsocci stressed. Instances where Adelphia markets were part of the buy, as in Los Angeles, are "by coincidence only," he said.

The campaign itself is "just a friendly reminder to consumers who are unhappy with their current cable TV service," said DirecTV senior vice president of marketing Susan Collins. Her company is a "compelling alternative," she added.

Two new humorous TV commercials will again feature "Dan," the DirecTV installer used in previous spots.

In one, Dan installs DirecTV's system in a cable employee's home. That person then asks Dan to park his van behind his house and install the dish on the back of his roof.

The second spot offers a montage of moments involving Dan and his new customers, including "the big hug" from a recent commercial.

One print ad touts DirecTV's No. 1 customer-satisfaction ranking in a recent J.D. Power & Associates survey, with copy asking, "Can your cable company say this?"

The second ad will tout DirecTV's 130-channel Total Choice Plus with Local Channels package, priced at $39.99, and features the line, "If we gave you any less, we would be cable."

DirecTV's fourth-quarter promotion — for subscribers who make a one-year commitment to either Total Choice or the Opcion Extra Especial Spanish-language programming ($31.99 per month) within 30 days of their hardware purchase — offers three free months of the Showtime Unlimited multiplex package. It runs from Oct. 13 through Jan. 11.

DirecTV, which now serves 10.7 million subscribers, declined to estimate the dollar support put behind the campaign.