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DirecTv Announces A La Carte Package

Taking a somewhat different approach to adding new basic cable networks to its programming lineup, DirecTv announced it will launch next month an a la carte Family Package tier for which it will charge subscribers an additional $5 per month.

The Family Package is to include eight new ad-supported cable network channels including Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen network with interactive applications, and Cartoon Network’s Boomerang channel carrying 24 hours of classic cartoons. Other channels will include: A&E’s Biography Channel, Odyssey Network, Discovery Kids Channel, Disney/ABC’s SoapNet, PBS Kids Channel and the Do It Yourself Network, from the HGTV and Food Network family.

A national PBS feed, which is not a part of DirecTV’s package of local channels, is also included in the new family tier.

DirecTv said it would launch the a la carte tier on May 25 with a free preview period running through June. Subscribers who wish to continue receiving the tier will be billed an additional $5 per month, effective July 1.

The approach is somewhat different for DirecTv, which has traditionally added new basic cable network channels to its Total Choice expanded basic lineup at no additional charge. However, the satellite provider announced last month that it will apply a $2 per month price increase to new subscribers, leaving existing customers unchanged.

Meanwhile, DirecTv announced a new record subscriber month for March. The service said it enlisted 160,000 new viewers last month, which was a 33 percent increase over March 1999. DirecTv also converted 105,000 additional subscribers to its medium-power Primestar operation. DirecTV has converted 745,000 Primestar subscribers to date, but has about 1 million more to go. DirecTv president Eddy Hartenstein has established a goal of converting all Primestar viewers over to the high-power DirecTv system by the end of the year.