Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't Mess With the Cuban

I reported last week that HDNet Chairman and President Mark Cuban filed suit against DIRECTV because the U.S. satellite TV provider wants to move the company's two HD channels to a new, HD package that would cost customers an additional $4.99/mth. Today, SkyREPORT says that Cuban has succeeded in a temporary restraining order that would prevent DIRECTV from moving the HDNet channels. The actual hearing will take place on December 7, but it looks like Cuban is a force to be reckoned with!

Cuban claims that HDNet would suffer "irreparable harm" if it lost customers due to the extra fee that DIRECTV wants to invoke for its channels. The Dallas judge agreed with Cuban that this was a likely scenario, thus granting the temporary injunction. How many of HDNet's faithful fans would be willing to pay an additional $60/year to access the channels, which include live sports, licensed programming, movies, and original content, all broadcast in 1080i high-definition? Currently, HDNet's two HD channels are part of DIRECTV's basic $9.99/mth. HD offering.

Although DIRECTV is currently not permitted to move the HDNet channels, the company is still moving forward with promoting its new HD Extra Pack package, which will include MGM HD, Smithsonian HD, and MHD. (The Extra Pack was to be offered as a free "preview" until December 15 anyway). No word yet on whether DIRECTV will move two alternate HD channels to the new package should the court rule that HDNet has to stay where it is.

I do agree with Cuban's decision to fight for his content and customers. But I still believe that what's more important than disputing price packages is to get lagging customers on board with HD, period. Isn't it a bit soon in the high-def game to be charging customers more for services?

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