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DirecTV: All TV Signals by 2008

Washington — After merging with News Corp., DirecTV Inc. is promising to carry every local TV station in the country no later than 2008, funded by a $1 billion investment in new satellites designed to deny cable bragging rights anywhere as the lone pay TV provider of local broadcasters.

The companies broke the news in a filing Monday with the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to approve the merger later this year.

The expanded local TV promise would likely appease the National Association of Broadcasters, although the trade group has demanded service to all 210 markets by Jan. 1, 2006.

DirecTV chairman and CEO Eddy Hartenstein, here. to address a group of direct-broadcast satellite retailers, said meeting the NAB’s timetable was possible if the business plan can be executed properly.

‘We are looking to provide local channels through our platform in all 210 markets by no later than 2008. The goal is to get there by 2006, but there are a lot of hurdles to get there — technology, spectrum and all of that,’ Hartenstein told reporters after the speech.

DirecTV is the No. 1 DBS carrier, with more than 11 million subscribers. News Corp. has agreed to pay $6.6 billion for a controlling 34% stake in Hughes Electronics Corp., DirecTV’s parent — a deal some cable companies are fighting.

In the FCC filing, DirecTV said that if the merger closed by the end of this year, it might be able to add about 30 more HDTV channels in 2004 with both local and national content. But the addition of HDTV channels might force the company to slow its local-TV-market expansion, DirecTV added.

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