Ergen Ponders DTV Transition
A rather routine shareholders meeting for DISH Network allowed Chairman, President and CEO Charlie Ergen to speak about the digital TV transition, high-def and competition.
And the event Thursday also gave Ergen the chance to boast about the prospects of EchoStar, the entity spun-off earlier in the year. That company held its first shareholders meeting along with the DISH gathering.
On the digital TV transition, Ergen said there appears to be "messages out there that are pretty confusing," but that the company sees opportunities for the coming switch.
For starters, DISH is offering a $39 converter box being built by EchoStar that's part of the nation's digital TV converter box program. Also, DISH is offering a $9.99 locals only package via satellite to customers who cannot receive any local TV. Ergen said there are about 5 million households that won't have access to off-air digital broadcasts after the transition on Feb. 17, 2009.
Ergen also stressed that DISH is doing its part to inform customers of the DBS service that they will have access to locals after the switch.
On high-def, Ergen said the company is preparing for the launch of EchoStar XI next month. The satellite promises to expand capacity for delivery of additional HD networks.
As for others in the pay-TV space, including telco video service like Verizon FiOS TV and AT&T's U-verse, Ergen said, "They certainly are competitors. They are new. They have momentum in the marketplace." To take on the challenges, the top executive cited satellite's benefits, and added that DISH will focus on "being the best platform" for video.
When talking about EchoStar, Ergen expressed excitement about the new company's prospects. There's the satellite capacity part of the business. And Ergen said while set-top box efforts at "SATS" are primarily focused on supporting DISH, "We hope (the company) will get other business," including international customers, he said.