Despite several positive 2Q metrics, DirecTV CEO Chase Carey lamented during a Tues conference call that vital sub growth fell 4-5% below target, posting the lowest Q totals (125K net adds, 863K gross) in more than 6 years. Even as US rev jumped 12% to $3.3bln, churn was low and ARPU grew 5.6%, "the weak [sub growth] showing speaks to cable’s marginal cost advantage in the triple play," Sanford Bernstein’s Craig Moffett wrote in a Tues analysis. "With Comcast and Charter and others just now ramping up their VoIP triple play marketing, these results paint a sobering picture of things to come." Carey acknowledged cable competition as a factor and also cited restructuring of the DBS op’s 3rd party dealer base to bolster direct sales. But the picture also contains some rosy portions. Carey said the oft-delayed shipments of its HD DVR will commence within a few weeks, which will drive sales and complement the roll out of 25 additional local HD markets by year’s end. DirecTV’s DBS/Internet bundling agreement with Earthlink will soon expand to other cities, he said, and its telco alignments are gaining momentum. "We are only now putting the bundle into play, so results will clearly be better going forward." Carey is extremely bullish on wireless broadband technology and expects to soon conclude an investment or distribution agreement in the sector. One impressive 2Q aspect is successful churn reduction to a 1.59 monthly rate, achieved chiefly through an effort to attract "higher quality" subs. The group represents 50-60% of its overall sub base, said CFO Mike Palkovic, and involuntary churn represented 33% of overall Q churn, down 11%. As for widespread rumblings of a merger with DISH, "clearly there are synergies, but the reality is there are an array of complexities [germane to a possible deal]," Carey said.

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