EchoStar CEO Charles Ergen told a Senate Commerce Committee indecency hearing panel Thursday that his DISH satellite service would launch a family-friendly tier Feb. 1, but it will not include local broadcast stations.
Ergen said that the package would cost $19.99 (another $5 to add local stations) and include some sports and news, as well as religious and kids and family channels.
A number of the senators had expressed their unhappiness with the cable industry's initial family tiers, which did not include sports channels. Senator Lautenberg (D-N.J.), for instance, said he thought their absence was an effort to make the family tiers unattractive, though Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) countered that the reason the sports nets were not in the tiers was that they were unrated.
Ergen said his family-friendly package would have included more channels, but some programmers were not unbundling their services.
He blamed the Big Four broadcast networks, whose parents also own cable channels, and their practice of tying retransmission consent for their owned TV stations to those cable channels, with forcing services like his to carry channels his customers don't want to see or pay for.
According to Comcast Executive VP David Cohen, DISH's announced tier makes six family-friendly tiers announced to date, also including DirecTV, Time Warner, Cox, Comcast and Insight. He said that means that 70% of multichannel video customers now have the choice of three family tiers, two satellite and their cable company tier.