Cable on the menu

DirecTV to offer package of 8 family channels

Eight cable networks in dire need of distribution have found a home on DirecTV as part of the satellite service’s first a la carte package of ad-supported family channels.

As expected, Boomerang — a 24-hour-a-day classic cartoon spinoff of the Cartoon Network that launched Saturday — and the recently launched SoapNet (Disney/ABC) and Oxygen webs will be part of the new package that will be introduced May 25. Monthly package fee of $5 will kick in as of July 1 after a free preview of the new services through June.

Also included will be A&E’s Biography Channel, Odyssey Network, Discovery Kids Channel, PBS Kids Channel and the Do It Yourself Network, from the HGTV and Food Network family.

Deals for the networks, with the exception of Oxygen and Odyssey, came as part of broader distribution agreements between DirecTV and the parent companies of each network.

A national feed of PBS, which is not a part of DirecTV’s package of local channels, is also included in the new family tier.

Large potential

Although it remains to be seen how many subscribers the fledgling networks will gain through the satellite package, the tier gives them a potential reach of DirecTV’s 7.3 million subs.

Satcaster continues its rapid growth with 160,000 new subscribers in March — a record for the month and a 33% increase over the number of subs added in March 1999.

Company also converted 105,000 additional subscribers from the medium-power PrimeStar satellite service — acquired last year by DirecTV — to the company’s primary high-power service. So far, DirecTV has converted 745,000 Primestar customers but PrimeStar still has about 1 million subs.

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