BUSINESS

NIRVANA ON TV

For US$7,500, Titanium offers everything for the serious tube addict

REBECCA ADDELMAN September 4 2006
BUSINESS

NIRVANA ON TV

For US$7,500, Titanium offers everything for the serious tube addict

REBECCA ADDELMAN September 4 2006

NIRVANA ON TV

BUSINESS

For US$7,500, Titanium offers everything for the serious tube addict

REBECCA ADDELMAN

How much would you spend for incredible television? In the U.S., the answer just topped out at $7,500 a year. Titanium, a new luxury product from the direct-to-home satellite company DirecTV, promises the best TV that money can buy. Sports, movies, pay-per-view and adult channels are all included in the price, and so is a 24-hour boob tube helpline, where “white glove” concierges are on call to ensure your TV-watching is glitch-free. The only catch? You have to qualify—by being rich, American, and preferably famous.

It all began as a Hollywood wish list. David Hill, president of DirecTV, “was going to parties and talking to people in high places who were saying, ‘We love DirecTV, but we would love to just have everything available to us any time we want it,’ ” says Darris Gringeri, vice-president of public relations.

And so, “the idea for Titanium was born.” Customers currently enjoy the utmost in exclusivity: only 750 to 1,200 Americans, several of them A-listers, are subscribers of the service (DirecTV refused to release exact numbers). But at $7,500 per year, even celebrities might balk at the price. (By way of comparison, ordering every single channel from Canada’s satellite retailers would cost more than some $2,400 a year from Star Choice, with 330 channels, and about $4,400 from Bell ExpressVu, which has around 500.)

So what makes Titanium so special? It all starts with customer service. Every subscriber receives a titanium-plated 20-page instruction manual, warning them to “prepare for a television experience like no other.” Once the system is installed, customers are granted access to DirecTV’s entire catalogue of programming: 800-plus TV and radio channels that include 27 HD stations, the NFL Sunday Ticket, Mega March Madness (watch up to four games on one screen!), eight HBO channels, 12 Showtime stations, 15 movie chan-

nels dedicated to playing over 600 movies every month, six adult channels, and World Direct—DirecTV’s international programming. And those are just the basics. With Titanium, you don’t pay for pay-per-view, and every customer is supplied with 10 HD DVRs. Meaning that for those so inclined, they can record up to 20 channels at once. If you’re having troubles with your service, a mechanic can be at your house within hours.

It’s impressive, even without the gimmicky add-ons like “Maltin’s Minute,” a 60-second spot where critic Leonard Maltin reviews films, and “BabyFirstTV, America’s first and only channel dedicated to babies.” But the entertainment industry isn’t convinced. Market analysts panned Titanium when it first launched, criticizing the $7,500 fee. Bruce Leichtman, of Leichtman Research Inc., was even quoted as saying that Titanium is “a cute PR stunt: nothing more, nothing

IT FEATURES DIRECTV’S ENTIRE CATALOGUE OF 800 CHANNELS, AND PAY-PER-VIEW IS INCLUDED

less.” But Gringeri just points to the 1,200 Titanium-related inquiries on DirecTV’s website within the first week of its launch as proof that a market for high-end television exists. “This is the Rolls-Royce of entertainment,” he says. “It’s for those who expect to have the best.”

In Canada, the best is still a long way off. Bell ExpressVu, Canada’s largest satellite provider with more than 1.7 million subscribers, has no plans for a Titanium-style product, and Gary Smith, ExpressVu’s president, downplayed Titanium by labelling it a “niche offer.” For the criminally inclined, it’s impossible to even pirate basic DirecTV—it’s equipped with a security system that’s eluded hackers for two years and counting. This means the only hope Canadians have of indulging in TV excess is to break the law and order DirecTV through a U.S. postal address. But even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll be allowed in to Titanium’s select circle of subscribers. Canada will just have to wait. M