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REEL LIFE / FILM & VIDEO FILE : New Satellite Service Headed to the County : DirecTV's high-powered equipment will beam 150 subscription channels to small antennas. The firm hopes to have 40% of the rural market in six years.

March 17, 1994|PANCHO DOLL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Without the option of cable television, rural residents have been spared the endless reruns and infotainment kibble that would have lured them away from their bucolic splendor.

No longer.

A company called DirecTV will enter the cable television market in April with two high-powered satellites that will beam 150 subscription channels directly to small, low-cost antennas. Before DirecTV, only wealthy ex-urbanites could afford the $3,000 sticker on an eight-foot antenna, while the rural middle class was spared the temptation of frittering away its time and money.

"Satellites broadcasting to large antennas are generally 10 watts and analog," said Tom Bracken, director of communications for the El Segundo company. "We're going to be using a new frequency and broadcasting at 120 watts per channel. That allows us to deliver a digital signal to an 18-inch dish."

Bracken said his company hopes to have 40% of the rural market in six years. According to cable providers and census figures, 100,000 homes in Ventura County do not have cable access.

The loss of back country innocence is the price of defense conversion. DirecTV is a subsidiary of Hughes Electronics, which has spent $600 million in its bid to enter the entertainment market.

"They seem to be offering a good product at a competitive price," said Steve Weingard, general manager of Century Cable in Ventura. "They're a real and viable competitor."

Weingard and other cable providers need not worry for the time being. DirecTV hopes for only 8% penetration in cable areas. The receiver and antenna will be sold by satellite dealers and at Sears and Circuit City stores, but at $600, city dwellers would really have to hate their cable company to switch.

*

If you're a fan of overlooked movies, there's a sleeper screening at the Ojai Playhouse this Sunday. "King of the Hill" is the picaresque story of a 12-year-old boy growing up in a Depression-era transient hotel in St. Louis.

Critics said that Jesse Bradford in the lead role delivers a thoughtful performance as a character scheming to stay one step ahead of events that are pulling his family apart. His mixture of vulnerability and resilience invites comparisons to the young hero in Truffaut's "The 400 Blows."

Director Steven Soderbergh ("sex lies and videotape") adapted the 1993 film from A.E. Hotchner's memoirs. It stars Jeroen Krabbe, Lisa Eichhorn, Elizabeth McGovern and Spalding Gray.

The screening is set for 4:30 p.m. at the Ojai Playhouse, 145 E. Ojai Ave. Admission is $6.

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