DirecTV U.S. Subscribers Rise in First Quarter, CEO "Confident" on AT&T Deal

Mike White
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DirecTV chairman, president and CEO Michael White's total 2010 compensation amounted to $32.9 million. A big boost for the pay package though was an "up front" multiyear stock and stock options incentive grant valued at about $9.1 million per year over a three-year period, the company said. White, who joined DirecTV last year, had a base salary of $1.45 million. White also received a performance-based bonus of $4 million. The filing also mentioned the upfront stock awards valued at $14.7 million and option awards worth $12.5 million overall as part of his compensation, plus "other" compensation.

"We remain confident that our transaction with AT&T will close in the second quarter," says CEO Mike White.

DirecTV on Tuesday reported first-quarter earnings and improved U.S. subscriber trends.

The satellite TV giant, led by CEO Mike White, posted earnings of $730, compared with $561 million in the year-ago period when a charge for a revaluation of the company's Venezuelan business due to a currency devaluation in the country weighed down results.

First-quarter revenue of $8.14 billion increased 4 percent principally due to strong average revenue per user growth at the firm's U.S. business. The financials came in below Wall Street expectations.

DirecTV added 60,000 U.S. subscribers in the first quarter though, exceeding expectations. In the year-ago period, it had added 12,000. The company lauded its lowest first-quarter customer churn rate in six years. It ended March with 20.412 million U.S. subscribers.

Regulators have been reviewing telecom giant AT&T's plan to acquire DirecTV. Investors will be curious to see what White may have to say about the state of the review amid Comcast's recent decision to abandon its plan to acquire Time Warner Cable amid regulators' opposition.

White, in fact, told analysts on Tuesday that they were likely participating in DirecTV's last earnings call as a separate company.

 "We remain confident that our transaction with AT&T will close in the second quarter, and we are excited to carry our strong operating momentum forward to help create a unique new market leading company."

As has been a trend this earnings season, White was asked about slimmed-down bundles of channels, and he appears more supportive than most.

"Consumers want more flexibility, and frankly should have it," he said, specifically using sports as an example, since some customers have no interest in such programming but pay for it in their bundles nevertheless.

He also said that about 7 percent of DirecTV customers have skinny bundles already, given that they have opted for the lowest subscription tier and are therefefore paying $50 a month for 130 channels.

"Skinny bundles, if you will, isn't something new for DirecTV," he said. "I'm not a believer that we ought to go all the way a la carte, but I do think the system has kind of gone too far the other way."

Twitter: @georgszalai