High-definition promotions a hit at EchoStar's business 'summit'.
Dish Network retailers at the company's annual convention cheered the satellite-TV operator's new high-definition programming promotions but expressed disappointment that the company didn't announce an Internet product to rival cable operators' bundles.
"As soon as I walked out" of the speech by EchoStar's CEO Charlie Ergen, "I called the store to let them know about this HDTV news," said Tom Pietropola, who owns Laketon TV in Pittsburgh and is one of more than 3,000 attendees at EchoStar's annual Team Summit trade show and pep rally.
The highlight of the four-day show at the Colorado Convention Center came Friday, when company founders Ergen and James DeFranco addressed the crowd and announced new products. Some - such as the addition of HGTV HD, NFL Network HD, National Geographic Channel HD and Starz HDTV - are available now, while plans for future products such as a beefed-up video- on-demand system are in the works.
Ergen's remarks weren't open to media, but retailers said he also announced a new round of discounts starting July 1 that are intended to lure new customers. In recent quarters, Douglas County-based EchoStar has reported slowing subscriber growth in the face of renewed cable competition.
In addition to the new HD channels, EchoStar also cut the upfront lease fee for its HD digital video-recorder satellite-TV receiver to $200 from $300, and new customers can save $200 if they subscribe to DishHD Bronze or higher. Those deals might help tip the balance for new HDTV-set buyers who haven't decided if they want to pay more for HD programming, said William Sokol, who, with his wife, owns Infinity Satellite Systems in Iowa.
Dish's 29-channel HD lineup is the largest slate among all pay-TV providers, and the company has touted its HD offerings as one of its competitive advantages. The four new channels are "the tip of the iceberg" for HD programming announcements, said Jody Martin, EchoStar's senior vice president of marketing.
EchoStar also announced it will distribute WildBlue Communication's satellite-based broadband service later this year to help the company reach rural customers.
That won't help Derinda Smith, whose customers in Fort Wayne, Ind., have been besieged with offers for bundled Internet and video service from cable rival Comcast. EchoStar's satellite-based technology doesn't allow it to offer its own Internet or phone service, although there have been reports in recent months that EchoStar and rival DirecTV might partner to start their own broadband offering.
"I was hoping for an announcement on an Internet plan but haven't heard anything yet," said Smith, who owns Northstar Satellite Systems.
In other EchoStar announcements:
• The company expanded its prepaid service to Brazilian, Pakistani, South Asian and Arabic programming packages. EchoStar, which launched the 30-day programming cards for its entry-level and Dish Latino packages this year, is the only pay-TV operator to offer prepaid cards.
• EchoStar also said it added 16 games from PixelPlay, including Asteroids Mega and Centipedes Mega, as part of "DishHome" interactive Channel 100.
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