DirecTV, Puerto Rico’s largest satellite service provider, plans to expand its channel lineup — including a handful of high-definition networks — as well as introduce new set-top equipment to extend more features to its customer base, company officials announced Thursday.
The new offerings will be available in mid-December, when Puerto Rico will officially become the first market in DirecTV’s Latin American footprint where new products and services are being rolled out, Jacopo Bracco, president of DirecTV’s PanAmerican region, told this media outlet.
“This technological transformation impacts everything that is DirecTV Latin America. But Puerto Rico is a hybrid market where programming includes signals from both the U.S. market and Latin America, which is why we’re starting here,” he said. “With this, we’re reinforcing our position before the new developments the competition has brought.”
The new channel lineup includes HD versions of Bravo, Lifetime, Comedy Central and SyFy, as well as new sports networks Golf Channel HD, beIN SPORTS, NBC Sports Network, MLB Network HD, The Tennis Channel HD and NBA TV HD. The lineup is rounded out with the introduction of Headline News, Animal Planet US, Nick Jr., TV Dominicana and Sistema TV.
“DirecTV Puerto Rico remains one of our most important operations and the addition of new channels, along with advanced technology, is proof of our commitment to Puerto Rican viewers,” said Bracco, refraining from revealing how much the company is investing in the new services and technology.
Aside from adding channels, next month, DirecTV will make available new HD-ready set-top digital video recorder with interactive features to allow clients to get the most out of their paid monthly service. This is the third time in five years that the provider upgrades its hardware, after introducing its first-generation DVR in 2007 and HD in 2009.
“We’re proud to launch Nexus, the new technology that allows access to favorite programming in any room of the home with a single HD-DVR,” he said.
To take advantage of the Nexus features, clients will need to have one HD-DVR box in their home, which they can use to freeze programming and continue watching it in another room where they will need to have a regular HD box. Programming can be recorded and viewed on any television — up to four per home — and viewers can access and manage a single list of all the shows recorded on all of the TVs.
“This launch reaffirms our commitment to island viewers, so they may continue enjoying the best programming whereever, whenever and however they want it,” said Thelma López, general manager of DirecTV Puerto Rico. “Our goal is to create a unique television experience, including beyond the TV screen.”
Switching to the new equipment will represent no additional costs for existing clients, who will need to request the new HD-DVR and a new antenna to be able to take full advantage of multi-room viewing and other new features, López said.
Growth and competition
During an aside with News is my Business, Bracco discussed Puerto Rico’s paid television market, which he said “possesses unique characteristics.”
“When we first launched here in 1999, adoption rate was very fast and today Puerto Rico is one of the markets with the highest penetration levels of paid television service,” he said. “However, because of that high level and possibly recent economic conditions, Puerto Rico is one of the markets that has grown the least in the region.”
Still, he said the market is not saturated and the company he represents still believes there’s room for growth. While it is broadly known that DirecTV is Puerto Rico’s largest satellite service provider, the company is still facing competition from the likes of Dish Network as well as traditional cable providers on the ground, such as Onelink, which has been acquired by Liberty Cablevision — another strong carrier — Choice Network and ClaroTV.
“Cable companies will always have their limitations, where their infrastructure simply doesn’t reach, as opposed to us, who provide our signal from the air, which is an intrinsic advantage to our service,” said López.
While the DirecTV executives said the new services are expected to fuel the company’s growth now and in the future, they both refrained from offering numbers to reflect how much more of the market they expect to command. DirecTV is a publicly traded company, so specific market numbers often go unrevealed.