Continuing from part 1…
From walking in it appeared that the DirecTV conference was going to be a bit of a rehash of Echostar, but once the lights dimmed, the difference was substantial. First of all, the presentation included… video. Yup, video – from a media company – what a surprise! I was also impressed that the company brought a team of execs, and a couple of guest stars!
The presentation from Chase Carey (President/CEO) began with a recap of 2006, then went on to discuss the year ahead. The focus will be on Sports, HD, and VOD, and will include new content and services to support the vision. Chase then professed the company’s HDTV leadership position.
Steven Roberts (VP of Games and Strategic Initiatives) came on to present DirecTV’s new Championship Gaming Series, which he described as a “sports league” for gaming. The league will debut later this year, and includes a draft, commissioner, and salaried players. They showed a promo video which I felt was a really exciting vision for gaming. This is definitely something I’d have applied for as a teenager, and I hope “the kids today” take advantage of the opportunity. Fatal1ty also appeared, as he’s under an exclusive contract with DirecTV. I also got a brief interview with him which I’ll post later.
Next up, Eric Shanks (EVP for Entertainment) took the stage to discuss a few new technologies and services. The theme of “being connected” is key, with their Viiv-enabled DVR as their first foray into a connected, digital home. Eric also showcased the upcoming DirecTV-on-demand (launching in Q1), which allows subscribers to view a whole new lineup of on-demand programming. Broadcasters will have the ability to create their own styles and themed “pages” for users.
Eric mentioned consumers’ frustrations with receiving announcements (for new channels, programming, features, etc) from DirecTV and how they are addressing it with a new feature called GMessages (the G is for Guide). In the demo, the program guide has new lines with
ads announcements from DTV or broadcasters. These ads announcements can also include interactive features (e.g. “record this” or, more appropriately “buy now”). I don’t know about how many customers are complaining on this topic, but I’d recommend this article at PVRWire on some quite major complaints.
Next, Eric introduced TV veteran Rick Rosner as the pioneer/inventor of a new product coming soon from DirecTV called Sat+Go. Now I have the pleasure of having met Rick while I was working at Sling Media, as he was a big Slingbox owner and helped spread the word to Hollywood. Rick’s a great guy and a visionary, and while he loves his Slingbox, he really wanted to come up with a way to watch DirecTV without any connection, whether he’s in the middle of the desert or out camping somewhere. Thus, Sat+Go was born (read more from the NY Times). Congrats to Rick, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!
Next up from Eric was a preview of the Nascar Hot Pass, a DirecTV exclusive debuting next month. For each race, the DTV/Nascar team will pick 5 racers and give them dedicated channels during the race. It adds 30 new cameras and 10 announcers per race! I’m not much of a Nascar fan myself, but it sounds like a great service to Nascar fans.
During Q&A, I decided to pop in a question myself, wanting to find out where DTV sees Internet/user-generated content (read: YouTube) fits in. DirecTV believes the trend is toward HDTV, and most UGC doesn’t look good (read: it looks very bad) on HD displays. That said, they acknowledge the growth and are looking into something down the road with “Web players.” My hunch is they’ve gone into it pretty far, as they even mentioned a possible implementation where Web videos could have a “send to my DVR” button added to the screen. This was actually my first time hearing a company like this one admit there is a benefit to working with Web services (as opposed to the PR rep at Moxi/Digeo who felt that its not the right target market and a bit too niche). I’m impressed!
The final interesting comment came as a reporter from a HD publication asked about 1080p support. DirecTV has not committed to 1080p, and their CTO rose to state that they weren’t making any commitments yet. As the reporter pushed on the question, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they weren’t budging yet, and weren’t convinced on the benefits of the format. This is a sentiment I completely agree with, and will discuss in the future – don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-1080p, I just think there’s a lot of FUD on the topic.
Powerpoint slides, screenshots, and pictures from the event are below:
I have decided to create an arbitrary scoring system to pronounce one of the two companies the First Ever Winner of the CES 2007 Battle of the Satellite Company Press Conferences…
- DirecTV takes a gamble on broadcasting quite a few hours of video game competition. 1 point.
- Both companies declare themselves “HD leaders”. 0 points.
- DirecTV dedicates 5 new channels for car racing. Net gain of 0 points.
- Echostar pledges no rate hikes and widens the channel lineups. 3 points.
- DirecTV throws advertising into the program guide. -1 point.
- Echostar gives the customer control with USB support. 1 point.
- DirecTV tries a novel approach of letting someone outside their company propose a product and actually brings it to market. 1 point.
- Echostar has Sling Media investment (worth 1 point) but no other mention of any Internet-based content or services (minus 2 points).
- DirecTV addresses the Connected Home as well as Internet content services. 2 out of a 5 total point pool for the topic.
Initial score: Echostar 3, DirecTV 3. Holy cow, a tie. Hmm.. I need a tiebreaker. OK, how about:
- DirecTV wins it by showing more than 0 seconds of video during their presentation.