Ergen on DISH Q4: "Disappointing"

DISH Network CEO Charlie Ergen called fourth quarter results for the DBS service "disappointing," blaming sluggish economic conditions and intense competition for generating lackluster numbers during the three-month period.

DISH Network said it added about 85,000 net new subscribers in the quarter, giving the company about 13.78 million subscribers at the close of December. In fourth quarter 2006, the company reported about 350,000 net new subscribers.

Ergen, speaking with analysts during a conference call Tuesday, cited the sour economic environment, which among other factors includes fewer housing starts, for the uninspiring numbers. Also, the top executive cited intensifying competition in the video space.

DISH Network executives said they hope to turn things around with key satellite launches. Those satellites would give the company additional capacity for HD services, including more local high-def markets.

The goal for the small dish company: 100 local high-def markets by the end of the year.

Among the satellites bringing capacity to DISH is AMC-14, the SES AMERICOM spacecraft that's scheduled for launch next month. According to DISH's quarterly filing, the EchoStar XI bird is set for a mid-year launch, and satellites named CMBStar and Ciel 2 are being prepared for missions later in the year.

As for financials, DISH Network reported total revenue of $2.89 billion for the fourth quarter, a 12 percent increase when compared to the $2.58 billion for the same period in 2006. Fourth quarter net income was $175 million, compared with $153 million for the same period in 2006.