DirecTV Execs Talk Premium VOD, Streaming Video

12:57 PM PST 04/28/2011 by Georg Szalai

"What we've got to do is continue to make ourselves a primary option for customers," says Derek Chang, executive vp, content strategy and development.

NEW YORK - A week-old premium VOD offer got a mention at DirecTV's annual shareholder meeting here on Thursday.

After a bullish presentation about state and outlook of the satellite TV giant, CEO Mike White said during the question-and-answer session that the early-release films that cost $29.99 and become available 60 days after the start of their theatrical run are another way for DirecTV to keep subscribers happy at a time of growing demand for anytime/anywhere access to content.

He described the launch last week Thursday as a way to trial the offer this summer. DirecTV has said though that the premium VOD service is a long-term play. 

White on Thursday also mentioned that DirecTV's mission statement is to make the company's service the best video experience anywhere, anytime people want it. "We plan to stay true to that commitment by offering consumers an even better experience this year and beyond," he said, emphasizing that keeping subscribers in the mature U.S. market loyal is key to success. Making more movies and TV shows available via broadband is one element of that, he reiterated. 

"We are in an age where there are a lot of different options available for customers," Derek Chang, executive vp, content strategy and development, told The Hollywood Reporter after the meeting in explaining why premium VOD and possible other new offers are good for his company. "What we've got to do is continue to make ourselves a primary option for customers. That entails the content we put on, the availability of the product whereever customers are - all that sort of stuff."
 
"It's way too early," he said when asked if he could share information on the performance of the first title, Just Go With It.

But Chang predicted that the consumers who do use the offer will like it. "It's added value to customers," he said. "It's a premium product for a premium set of customers and is for us just continuing to always improve our products for our customers."

Asked if the windowing and price could change over time, Chang said there are no plans to experiment with tweaks at this early stage.

Asked if DirecTV is concerned about cable giant Comcast exploring premium VOD as well and having mentioned a possible window of six to eight weeks after theatrical launches, Chang said: "It's not an exclusive product and was never intended to be. We are first out of the gate...What Comcast is doing is between them and the studios."

He also reiterated that there is "no timetable" for the possible launch of a Netflix-type subscription service for streaming video that DirecTV is currently surveying consumers about.

"We are trying to prepare ourselves for the future," Chang said. "Clearly there are different distribution technologies and methods that didn't exist years ago....On that sort of stuff, we are in an evaluation process right now."

Competitor Dish Network is expected to use the acquisition of video rental firm Blockbuster to beef up its streaming offers.
"It's unclear specifically what they are going to do at this point," Chang said though. "It certainly is an interesting move on their part, and we are going to see what they end up doing with it and make some judgment at that point in time."

Thursday's shareholder meeting elected all nominated board members and passed a resolution to hold recurring voluntary and advisory-only shareholder votes on executive compensation. The votes will be held annually.

White on Thursday promised "a bright future," including continued growth and shareholder returns. And he reiterated the goal of doubling earnings to at least $5 per share and reaching about $30 billion in revenue over the next three years.

Plus, he said that for the fast-growing DirecTV Latin America "the best is yet to come."

White started at DirecTV at the beginning of 2010. His second shareholder meeting for the company was attended by about 60 people, including company staff and board members. It ran only about 25 minutes.

During a question-and-answer session with shareholders, White on Thursday also was asked about inventory issues that he was seen battling in a past episode of CBS show Undercover Boss. White said the company has put those challenges behind it before quipping: "My wife has told me no more Undercover Boss."
 

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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