Space is the place for DirecTV bird pair

Co. committed to bowing satellites in 2005

DirecTV on Friday affirmed it plans to launch two satellites in 2005 capable of broadcasting video and supporting broadband Internet access as part of its Spaceway service.

Despite media reports indicating that the broadband portion of Spaceway might be scrapped, company said it’s still considering using it for both video and Net access.

“We consider both the video and broadband capabilities of the Spaceway satellites to be an important part of our future,” CEO Chase Carey said. “We are committed to launching two satellites in early 2005 with a third satellite as a ground spare,” he added.

While DirecTV hasn’t announced any specific plans, there’s been wide speculation Spaceway will provide high-definition video, allowing the satcaster to compete more effectively with cable as consumers invest in HD-ready TVs.

The Spaceway broadband offering is also expected to be significantly faster than DirecTV’s existing DirecWay Internet access service, although no details have been announced.

DirecTV parent Hughes, in which News Corp. acquired a controlling stake, has reportedly spent nearly $2 billion on Spaceway thus far. The effort was under way long before News Corp. took over DirecTV. In late 2001, competitor EchoStar pledged to invest more than $1 billion in Spaceway in a bid to win support for its planned merger with Hughes, which was later blocked by the Justice Dept.

The Wall Street Journal had reported Friday that DirecTV and its new parent News Corp. have decided against an Internet offering and may not launch a second satellite.

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