NewsCorp Unveils US Satellite Investment Plans

25 September 2003

Rupert Murdoch plans to invest over a billion dollars in US satellite-TV operator DirecTV – if, that is, regulators allow News Corporation to take its planned controlling stake.

The nation’s number one satellite broadcaster, DirecTV is currently part of General Motors unit Hughes Electronics, but a $6.6 billion deal forged in April would see the Murdoch empire take a 34% stake in Hughes [WAMN: 10-Apr-03]. In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, NewsCorp has outlined its plans for the operator should the deal gain regulatory clearance.

According to this filing, NewsCorp would pour $1bn into launching new satellites between 2006 and 2008, allowing increased access to local channels and high-definition TV signals.

From 2004, the media titan plans interactive features such as gaming, banking and news, similar to those provided by its UK satellite service BSkyB. And by the close of 2005, it intends to offer set-top boxes containing digital video recorders, which allow viewers to save shows on a hard drive and pause or rewind live broadcasts.

All regulator-friendly fare, but it will do little to placate opponents of the deal who fear the power NewsCorp will wield when it adds DirecTV’s distribution system to its existing programming portfolio (such as Fox and Fox News).

Data sourced from: Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff