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Focus on Customer Needs Has Fueled Growth in DBS Industry

NEW YORK, May 20, 2003 – An expanding product line, quality services and competitive pricing continue to remain the key to customer satisfaction and retention in the direct broadcast satellite industry, according to a survey of current DBS subscribers released today by the Taylor Research & Consulting Group during SkyFORUM, the satellite service industry’s top financial symposium held in New York.

Of the 1,500 telephone interviews between very recent (within three months) and longer-term DIRECTV and Dish Network subscribers conducted in April 2003, 84 percent indicated overall satisfaction with their DBS service. DBS scores improved by five percentage points from a similar survey conducted in 2002, driven by improvements in such areas as programming channels, trouble-free installation, good value for the money, and quality customer service among the reasons for becoming or remaining DBS customers.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association commissioned Taylor Research to conduct the survey with several goals in mind: to assess the present DBS-cable competitive environment; understand what drives DBS subscription; gauge DBS customer satisfaction; evaluate DBS subscriber programming needs and interests; and, to weigh interest in new technologies, like DVR, VOD, satellite radio, and HDTV. The full study will be available to the public in mid-July. A second study looking at the competitive market is currently in development and will be released during the fall SkyFORUM on October 30.

The survey also found substantial interest among DBS subscribers in several of the new technologies available to satellite and cable customers. The product with strong interest is the digital video recorder, with 27 percent of new and longer-term subscribers interested in the technology.  Other products that customers were interested in were HDTV (23 percent), digital audio radio services (satellite radio) – or DARS – (18 percent), and video on demand (14 percent), which was described to respondents as a service currently available to digital cable subscribers with a per-use fee and pause, fast-forward, and rewind features.

“The results of the survey confirm that DBS providers are meeting the needs of their subscribers and continue to provide the cutting edge technologies and programs that consumers are interested in,” said David Charmatz, Senior Vice President of Research, Analysis, & Strategy, at Starz Encore Group, and chairman of the SBCA Research Committee, which consists of DIRECTV, EchoStar, HBO, Scripps Networks, Sirius, Starpath Communications, Starz Encore, Turner, and The Weather Channel. “This survey helps the SBCA member companies continue to offer the best value in the marketplace for consumers.”

In keeping with results consistent to a similar survey conducted last year, 58 percent of the respondents said that digital cable was not available in their community, and 31 percent were not aware of digital cable at all, whether they lived in cities, suburbs, or in rural areas. Only 24 percent of new DBS subscribers said that they had considered digital cable before subscribing to DBS. In general, most new DBS subscribers cited lower pricing and/or better programming selection as the main reason they chose DBS over digital cable.

The bi-annual SkyFORUM, hosted by SBCA and its SkyTRENDS partners, brings together Wall Street’s analyst and investment community with top satellite and telecom industry executives to discuss topical issues and upcoming trends. Chase Carey, a member of the board of directors and consultant to News Corporation, the luncheon keynote speaker addressed the increasingly competitive landscape in the multichannel television industry and how consumers will benefit as a result of this heightened competition. CNN Anchor and Managing Editor Lou Dobbs interviewed DIRECTV Chairman and CEO Eddy Hartenstein during the morning program, and FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin was the closing keynote, interviewed live by Jeremy Pelofsky of Reuters News Service.

The SkyFORUM program also included live demonstrations of emerging consumer product and services technologies, panel discussions. In addition, recent global research on the satellite industry and the competitive multichannel market will be featured.

The Taylor Research & Consulting Group, Inc., headquartered in Portsmouth, NH provides research services in the U.S. and internationally for the media, entertainment, and sports industries.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association ( is the national trade organization representing all segments of the satellite industry.  It is committed to expanding the utilization of satellite technology for the broadcast delivery of video, audio, data, music, voice, interactive and broadband services.  The SBCA is composed of DBS, C-band, broadband, satellite radio, and other satellite service and launch vehicle providers, content providers, equipment manufacturers, distributors, retailers, encryption vendors, and national and regional distribution companies that make up the satellite services industry.