DirecTV, EchoStar to offer add'l local channels


Satellite-TV providers DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. announced plans Thursday to roughly double the number of local channels they carry in major markets around
the country.

The expanded service is being rolled out to comply with federal rules
requiring satellite-TV providers beginning Jan. 1 either to offer all the local
stations in a market or to carry none at all.

The DBS carriers vainly fought the "carry-one, carry-all" requirement in
court due to the added costs.

Thursday, however, they touted the rollout of valuable service that finally
bring them on par competitively with cable operators, which have been required
to carry the full compliment of local channels for years.

"We are providing our customers with more entertainment and information
programming options that are relevant to their lives and communities," DirecTV president Roxanne Austin said.

DirecTV began broadcasting more than 200 additional local channels
in 41 markets Thursday.

The additions to the lineup generally enabled subscribers to DirecTV local packages
to receive United Paramount Network, The WB Television Network, Spanish-language and independent stations, in addition to the
"Big Four" and PBS channels they already received.

EchoStar said it will wait until Tuesday's deadline to add the extra
channels in its 36 local markets.

Chairman Charlie Ergen used Thursday's announcement to make a pitch
for his company's pending acquisition of DirecTV.

Without the enormous bandwidth created by combining the satellite capacity of
the two providers, direct-broadcast satellite customers in smaller markets may never get the
opportunity to receive local channels, he said.

"The best solution is the proposed merger ... which will allow EchoStar to
provide local channels to over 100 markets," he added.

Both companies offer the local packages at $5.99 monthly. Customers can also
purchase stations individually a la carte.