Electrifying: DirecTV, Current

In bundled deal; telecom also tops in satisfaction

DirecTV Group, in a move designed to further cater to customers who want their video service bundled with other products, struck a deal with Current Group for offering high-speed Internet services over power lines.

The company's announcement Wednesday coincided with a J.D. Power and Associates report that ranked DirecTV highest among satellite and cable TV providers, for whom competitive pressures have reached new heights amid the launch of video services by telecom giants, in customer satisfaction throughout most of the country.

DirecTV was No. 1 everywhere but in the North Central region, where it was beat by Wow! That region consists of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

In J.D. Power's rankings, DirecTV was tops in the West region followed Cox Communications and EchoStar Communications' Dish Network. In the East, it was best followed by Dish and Cox, and in the South, it was No. 1 followed by Bright House and Dish.

J.D. Powers bases its rankings on a poll of more than 17,000 U.S. households conducted in April, assigning each provider a score based on a scale of zero to 1,000.

According to J.D. Power, while only 1% of satellite TV subscribers bundle their video, voice and Internet services on one bill, 41% would like to.

To that end, DirecTV already has deals for Internet and telephony services in place with AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Qwest Communications International Inc., EarthLink Inc. and Clearwire.

With its newest alliance, with Current, customers beginning in the fourth quarter or first-quarter 2008 and living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area will be able to plug in a modem the size of a cell phone to receive Internet service via wires or wireless by way of power lines.

The deal, financial terms and length of which were not disclosed, allows DirecTV to roll out the service in other parts of the country dependent on where Current's technology is deployed. Cable operators have had success in attracting and retaining customers with bundled service offers.

Broadband over powerline, known as BPL, is "faster than the average cable service," DirecTV vp broadband Evan Grayer said. "This gives us the opportunity to offer a bundle comparable to any triple play out there."

J.D. Power director of telecom Frank Perazzini said DirecTV's need to combat the popularity of bundles with an attractive product is what drove them to the top of the J.D. Power list.

"They understand the triple play provided by most cable companies is quite formidable," he said. "To counter that, DirecTV is providing the best viewing experience."

Perazzini said 24% of cable subscribers bundle voice, video and data services with a single bill, and of those who don't, 34% would like to.