FCC Reactivates DirecTV Takeover Clock

18 November 2003

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday resumed the countdown on its review of News Corporation's intended acquisition of DirecTV, America's largest satellite broadcaster. The decision timescale had been suspended at the FCC's request pending clarification of certain unspecified issues.

The FCC, together with the US Justice Department, is mulling antitrust issues relating to NewsCorp's planned $6.6 billion (€5.7bn; £4.0bn) purchase of a controlling stake in DirecTV's parent, Hughes Electronics.

FCC Media Bureau chief W Kenneth Ferree said the agency had "substantially completed" discussions with the Justice Department. Following the relentless stomping of Capitol Hill's corridors of power by NewsCorp chairman Rupert Murdoch, it is not expected that either regulator will place any major obstacles in the way of the media mogul's most cherished ambition.

NewsCorp believes DirecTV's 11.5 million customer base can grow rapidly: "We think it's very realistic to grow by one million subscribers a year," NewsCorp president/coo Peter Chernin recently told the press, "and we'd like to get to twenty million subscribers in the long term."

A customer base of that magnitude would put DirecTV on a par with the top cable companies. Currently the biggest cable firm is Comcast which claims around 21.3m subscribers.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff