DirecTV Gives Thumbs Up to Satellite Home Viewer Act

The Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999, recently passed by Congress and expected to be signed into law by President Clinton, will usher in a new level of competition to the television broadcasting industry—and a new era of service for viewers, according to direct-broadcast satellite service DirecTV. The bill allows DBS companies to provide signals from local TV stations, just as cable companies have always done.

Besides legalizing "local-into-local" transmissions, SHVA rescinds a court decision, made earlier this year, that would have deprived many satellite subscribers of distant network signals. That possibility has been pushed back at least five years, thanks to the legislation.

The passage of the legislation is "a tremendous win for consumers," said DirecTV president Eddy W. Hartenstein. "Every month, two-thirds of our new customers come to DirecTV from cabled areas, which underscores the need for enhanced competition in the home-entertainment industry." When President Clinton signs the bill into law, DirecTV "will begin offering local channels to major metropolitan markets throughout the country, finally leveling the playing field between satellite and cable."

DirecTV will offer local-broadcast network channels via satellite to up to 50 million homes—approximately half of the nation's television households. Local channels in Los Angeles and New York will be transmitted by DirecTV "within hours" of the President's signing of the new law. Metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Washington, DC, Denver, Detroit, and Miami will soon follow. New markets will be added throughout the remainder of 1999 and in 2000. The cost to DirecTV customers for local TV service will be $5.95/month, including a national Public Broadcasting Service feed. "Additional markets will be announced in the coming weeks as the rollout continues," a DirecTV press release stated.