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DirecTV Lifts Projection of 2003 Customer Growth

September 30, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Hughes Electronics Corp.'s DirecTV said it would add more subscribers this year than it had expected because of the success of a football programming package and other promotions.

Revenue at the satellite television unit also will top recent forecasts, El Segundo-based Hughes said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

DirecTV has raised its subscriber forecast at least twice this year as uncertainty has abated over who will control it. EchoStar Communications Inc. dropped its bid for DirecTV last December amid antitrust objections. In April, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said it would buy a controlling stake in Hughes. The stock purchase is expected to close this year.

With the help of a program called NFL Sunday Ticket, DirecTV said it expected to add 1.05 million subscribers this year, up from the previous forecast of 900,000. The unit's revenue is seen rising to $7.6 billion from $6.45 billion last year. DirecTV has 11.8 million customers, compared with about 9 million at EchoStar's Dish Network.

"We're going to have a great year," Roxanne Austin, DirecTV's president, said on a Bloomberg News radio program. She said the new customers would consist largely of former cable TV subscribers.

Both U.S. satellite TV companies have been taking customers from cable TV operators by charging less and offering more channels in areas where cable providers haven't upgraded to digital systems.

Hughes said DirecTV's third-quarter revenue would rise 19% to $1.93 billion from $1.62 billion a year earlier. Hughes, which previously had forecast sales of $1.88 billion for DirecTV, said it expected to add 320,000 subscribers. The company kept its estimate of DirecTV's third-quarter operating profit at $90 million to $115 million.

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