Mike White has had a whirlwind 10 months since he took the helm at DirecTV: the satellite TV giant has added subscribers, launched three new 3-D channels, and a new online-only "NFL Sunday Ticket" option. And despite the fact that the company faces more competition than ever from everything from Netflix to AppleTV, the stock recently hit an all-time high. I sat down with White in an exclusive interview, his first TV interview since starting the CEO job in January.
White acknowledges that the world is changing fast, making it more important that DirecTV have a strong brand, great technology, and strong content.
On the technology end DirecTV recently launched the "whole home DVR" which allows users to record in one room and watch in another.
And on the content side, the "NFL Sunday Ticket" is a key piece of the company's growth. For $300 DirecTV subscribers can access NFL games over the Internet, including to the iPad. For $350, people who aren't DirecTV subscribers can also access all that content through the Internet.
DirecTV is paying a hefty price for all that NFL content - by some measures as much as $1 billion a year through 2013. I asked White if the new digital revenue will help cover the costs - he said "we're going to try." DirecTV will continue to move in this direction - he says that they're going to "take a hard look" at delivering content to non-subscribers.
After our on-camera interview I chatted with White about whether he fears consumers will start to "cut the cord" and drop their subscriptions. He is less worried about 20-somethings and early college graduates learning to live without a DirecTV subscription than he is about the impact of the weak economy. White told me he thinks the big concern is that the lowest tier of subscribers will simply stop paying because they can't afford it.
And nothing will change that trend until the economy turns around.
On Sunday White will be featured in "Undercover Boss" on CBS.
He tells me that the two weeks he spent "under cover" was a great education in the nitty gritty of his company's operations, especially considering his background in packaged goods - he was last CEO of PepsiCo International.
For more of my interview with White, including his thoughts on the impact of the Comcast -NBC Universal (*Note: NBC Universal, CNBC and CNBC.com are among the assets currently owned by parent company General Electric) merger and his justification of DirecTV's investment in 3-D, check out the interview.
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