The direct-broadcast satellite promotion that most irritated cable operators, EchoStar
Communications Corp.'s "I Like 9," isn't coming back, chairman Charlie Ergen
The promotion touted 100 channels of video for just $9 per month, which, on the
surface, seemed to be a sharply cheaper rate than cable's typical $30- to $40-per-month enhanced -basic package. It wasn't really cheaper than EchoStar's other offers, like its
Dish Network's common $31-per-month deal, because the DBS service wouldn't offer
the usual $200 subsidy on the dish and receiver. But the deal created a lot of
buzz for EchoStar.
Ergen said the campaign ended Jan. 31 and was not likely to come back. He
added that the $9 offer wasn't attractive to customers who wanted service for
multiple sets because of the lack of equipment subsidies.
Although EchoStar has maintained strong growth, he said he sees the effects
of the recession on EchoStar's growth and he's still sour about the
prospects for the economy.
"I'm not as optimistic as [Federal Reserve Board chairman] Alan Greenspan was [Wednesday]," Ergen said in a call
discussing EchoStar's fourth-quarter earnings. "We see people downgrade their
service. Credit is tougher to come by."
Ergen also disclosed that the company's attempts to sell high-speed Internet
service are basically a bust. A $100 million investment in StarBand Communications Inc. has been
written down to $36 million, and the high-speed provider has received a "going
concern" letter from its auditors, which generally precedes a Chapter 11 filing
or a dramatic financial restructuring.
An investment in WildBlue Communications Inc. -- a satellite service aimed at businesses -- has been
completely written off.