This particular launch may have ended in a ball of fire, but DirecTV says its is still on track. Yesterday a Zenit-3SL rocket operated by a company called Sea Launch exploded on the platform. Although the rocket did not contain a DirecTV satellite, the company plans to use Sea Launch to put up the second of two new "birds" later this year. DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer told TVpredictions.com that the explosion would have no impact on the company's high-definition plans; he wouldn't elaborate. Mercer's statement seems to run counter to a report on SeekingAlpha, which quotes analyst Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research as saying that the second launch "will be delayed," and that, according to DirecTV itself, a delay "would limit the rate at which DirecTV can expand availability of local HD channels."
Maybe the takeaway is that the launch of 100 national channels--including networks like A&E, National Geographic, Bravo, NFL Network, Cartoon Network, SciFi Channel, and CNN--will go on apace while the company might have to delay the availability of local HD channels--the versions of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC that differ among metropolitan areas. I, for one, hope the national-channel launch remains unaffected, because it will spur other providers to get more HD content themselves, and spur networks to produce it. Even so, 100 channels by year's end is still a tall order, especially if the satellite launch is delayed.