A Wall Street Downgrade for DIRECTV

On Thursday, Craig Moffett of Bernstein downgraded DIRECTV shares to market perform and maintained a $30 price target on the stock.

In a note, the analyst said a recent rally for DIRECTV shares has brought the company's stock to within 14 percent of Bernstein's target price. At the same time, DIRECTV's relative valuation compared to DISH Network has opened up, Moffett said.

"We see reasons for a more cautious stance exiting what should be a solid first quarter," he said.

As HDTV penetration has increased, DIRECTV shares have seen a jump. As for DISH, the company's lower-end customer base "has been much more directly impacted by macro-softness," Moffett said.

And while the first quarter could be strong for DIRECTV, the second quarter could be a different story.

Sales of HDTV sets traditionally fall after the Super Bowl, and that could hamper DIRECTV's ongoing high-def push. And "the impact of the housing crisis is likely to be felt the most strongly in the second quarter, already the seasonally weakest quarter for DBS," the analyst said.

Also, AT&T "will accrue to DISH Network, not DIRECTV, in the second quarter," Moffett said. "While well-telegraphed, the April 1 switch to DISH Network will have a significant impact on net additions in the second quarter."