Service first of its kind in country

BUENOS AIRES — Satcaster DirecTV Latin America introduces interactive TV in Argentina on Friday in a bid to revive subscriber growth.

The service — the first of its kind here — includes banking, customer service, multi-camera programming and video games at no extra cost.

DirecTV will offer email by the end of the year, at $1.99 extra a month for premium subscribers and $4.99 for basic subs.

Interactive programming will be available for, among other things, sports events, reality game shows and miniseries like HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” as well as for a content guide and a weather channel.

DirecTV has introduced similar services in Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Executives didn’t say how many subscribers they expected the service to attract in Argentina, though said it would differentiate them from rivals, especially the much bigger cable companies Cablevision (backed by Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst and Liberty Media) and Multicanal (Grupo Clarin).

Alejandro Zunda Cornell, marketing and programming manager of DirecTV Argentina, said the interactive service would “speed up the decision to subscribe for those people who have been considering it.”

Argentina was already heavily cabled when DirecTV launched; it now has 330,000 subscribers here. The satcaster has an exclusive on all 64 matches of the 2002 World Cup, though it has sublicensed 18 games to two terrestrial broadcasters.

Pay TV subscriber growth has stalled, as declining salaries, rising unemployment and inflation dampens consumer demand. And DirecTV’s DTH service costs from $43.99 to $91.99 a month, compared with a maximum of $43.90 for cable TV.

DirecTV Latin America is controlled by Hughes Electronics, and has over 1.6 million subscribers in 27 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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