EchoStar Communications Corp. is raising the price of its basic programming
packages by $1 per month starting March 1, the company announced Wednesday at
the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The change will affect EchoStar's "Top 50," "America's Top 100 CD" and "America's
Top 150," which currently run $21.99, $30.99 and $39.99 per month, respectively.
EchoStar vice president of programming Michael Schwimmer defended the increases, saying
they are "not only smaller than those recently announced by cable companies, but
they are also less than the price increases we've incurred from programmers."
Schwimmer said the increases equal a 3 percent jump on EchoStar's most popular
programming packages, compared with 6 percent hikes often incurred by cable and 20 percent
increases some sports channels, such as ESPN, routinely charge.
The rate hike is the first time EchoStar has increased prices on its Top 150
package since its introduction three years ago. EchoStar also added cable
networks Speedvision and MuchMusic USA to its Top 100 CD package.
EchoStar also said it has added 250 new local channels in the 36 local
markets it is currently serving -- an addition the company made because the law
required it to carry all local channels in all local markets it serves by Jan.
1. However, consumers in many of those markets will have to at least
temporarily add second satellite dishes to their roofs if they want to receive
all of those channels -- an issue that's angered the National Association of Broadcasters and that the Federal Communications Commission has agreed
to look into.
The company also introduced a new product at the CES show: the "DishPVR 508"
satellite-TV receiver, which integrates a standard receiver with a
personal video recorder. The new receiver allows Dish subscribers to record up
to 80 hours of programming and to rewind, fast-forward or pause that recorded
programming. The receiver will be available in February for $499.
EchoStar is also working on an even more advanced receiver, the "DishPVR 721,"
which won a "Best of Show" award at the CES. The DishPVR 721 is expected to be
available in early 2002, and it will offer 110 hours of recording time, as well
as access ports for high-speed broadband services and interactive television.