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DirecTV Fee Hike Hits Basic Subs

El Segundo, Calif. – DirecTV has notified dealers that it is raising fees on lower tier services by close to 10 percent for new subscribers as of Feb. 6, and 5 to 6 percent for existing subscribers beginning March 1.

At the same time, the satellite TV provider is raising the monthly stipend for high-definition programming from $9.99 to $10.99 for new HDTV customers.

The higher $10.99 monthly HD stipend will be assessed of new customers and existing subscribers activating HDTV equipment for the first time regardless of the programming package they select.

Existing HDTV customers will see no rate change to the monthly add-on fee if they make a commitment to stay with the service for one to two years, DirecTV said.

The company is also raising the fee for its HBO premium-channel add-on tier by $1 a month for all subscribers who take it. Fees for other higher-end programming packages will remain the same for both new and current customers.

The rate increases are part of an adjustment of the satellite TV provider’s fee structure, which will raise monthly subscription fees an average of about 4 percent for current subscribers and 7 percent for new subscribers this year, depending on selected packages and services.

For new subscribers, basic channel services are being renamed and re-priced. The current Total Choice package is being renamed Choice, and will receive a $5 per month price hike to $49.99 for newcomers. The Total Choice Plus package was renamed Choice Xtra for new subscribers, and will rise $5 to $54.99.

Existing Total Choice subscribers will receive a $3 per month rate hike, to $47.99, and existing Total Choice Plus customers will receive a $2 per month increase to $51.99.

DirecTV is also adjusting the way it packages HD channels with its various programming tiers. The company said that various high-definition programming channels will be bundled into base, premium and sports programming packages.

The Plus HD package will now run $69.99 a month before taxes and will include HDTV programming, DVR service and more than 185 standard and high-def channels. A DirecTV spokesman said the $9.99 or $10.99 monthly HD activation stipend is included in the new Plus HD charge.

The Plus HD package includes all the current DirecTV basic HD channels. Premium HD channels – which currently include Showtime HD and HBO HD – are added if the subscriber elects to add the respective HBO and Showtime service tiers.

DirecTV said it will offer a special promotion to new subscribers allowing them to receive the Plus HD package for $59.99 a month for the first 12 months, plus three free months of HBO and Cinemax and 12 pay-per-view coupons. To qualify, subscribers must mail in redemption coupons for $10 a month bill credit for 12 months.

Meanwhile, DirecTV announced at International CES that it plans to add 100 national HD channels later this year, but it has not yet said what it will charge for any of those new services.

DirecTV is following the lead of rival EchoStar and most cable operators who have announced rate increases due to rising programming costs. However, DirecTV has chosen to direct most of the increases at lower-end subscribers in favor of higher-end customers.

In other news, DirecTV said it activated the built-in ATSC tuners for over-the-air (OTA) DTV reception in its model HR20 HD receiver/DVR combination unit. The box, which became available to most markets late last year, was released without activating the OTA tuners as it made adjustments to unit software.

To activate the tuners, viewers must attach a suitable OTA antenna and run the antenna setup procedure in the system setup menu. In the procedure, users will be asked to input the ZIP code for the point of reception, or a secondary location nearest to them, and the point of the OTA broadcast transmissions.