April 14, 2007
DirecTV Using VOD, HD to Establish Itself as Premiere TV Provider

Both VOD and HD may be getting a big boost from the upcoming plan for DirecTV to launch a major video-on-demand service, including a significant amount of high-def content.

The service, which will go live in July, will be the first VOD service offered by a satellite service provider, will feature about 2,000 titles at its launch and will offer both film and television content. The variety of specific channels which already provide video-on-demand are set to create their own channel within the DirecTV VOD space.

According to the report from TelevisionWeek's James Hibberd, the satellite provider has committed to providing "as much as possible" in high-definition.

If that commitment is accurate, the VOD service might help further drive interest in purchasing HD televisions and service. However, the company warns that the available content for HD on demand will likely be small on launch.

According to Hibberd's story, the company also plans to get content providers to create relevant short videos as well, especially related to upcoming shows or current events. The most popular content will be distributed through DirecTV satellites, while the rest will come through its broadband server.

The VOD service doesn't come without its controversy, though, as cable operators are calling the offerings "faux-VOD." The difference comes in that, as Hibberd writes, "Programs stored on the satellite will be available instantly, while users accessing library content via broadband can immediately begin watching the program 'live' as it streams." This means that, when watching something streaming, users can't fast-forward or other similar functions until the program has completed downloading from the broadband server.

Back in January, I wrote about the DirecTV deal aimed to launch 100 new HD channels by the end of the year. I wrote, "That many networks creating high-definition content is a major boost to what feels like no more than a novelty right now. The question remains, however, as to how much of the content offered by these networks will be offered in HD after they create an HD version of the network. As we pointed out back in August, there is still quite a bit of programming on the broadcast networks that are not offered in high-definition."

The goal for DirecTV is to position itself as a frontrunner and technological leader through its HD and VOD offerings, especially in establishing itself versus other satellite and cable providers.

For more on using VOD as a driver for television service, see my post from January about Comcast.