EchoStar Communications Corp.'s last-gasp effort to please antitrust
regulators includes a laundry list of concessions to make a Cablevision Systems Corp.
start-up venture the sort of satellite competitor the government says it wants,
but this is still not likely to help EchoStar's foundering DirecTV Inc.
EchoStar's revisions, in a Federal Communications Commission filing, go much
further than the company had hinted at earlier.
EchoStar would give Cablevision a number of satellite frequencies and let the
start-up share some of EchoStar's facilities.
But the big concession would be to license Cablevision rights to resell all
of EchoStar's programming nationwide, giving consumers the choice of two direct-broadcast satellite
vendors, even if it is the same product.
That arrangement is similar to the rural franchise system DirecTV has carved
out for members of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (most of those
franchises have been gobbled up by Pegasus Communications Corp.).
Relying on Cablevision's Rainbow DBS venture as a prospective competitor has
struck regulators as foolish because Cablevision has been in financial trouble,
it hasn't even launched its satellite and it would probably need $2 billion to $3 billion
to create a legitimate rival.
By making it easier for Rainbow, EchoStar said, its proposal is "eliminating
all the uncertainties about Rainbow's entry into the market [that were]
identified by the [FCC]."