EchoStar Now DISH Network — Spins Off SlingBox, Set-Top Biz

dishnetwork.jpegEchoStar, the satellite broadcasting company, is finally changing its name to DISH Network, according to a filing with the SEC. Why the change? EchoStar wants its name to truly reflect its true business. It is also planning to spin off some of its businesses, and that spin-off will be called EchoStar Holding Co. (EHC), a move we had mused about earlier. Charlie Ergen is going to be chairman and CEO of both companies. EHC had sales of over a billion dollars and a profit of about $32 million for first six months of 2007, on a pro forma basis.

EHC will primarily have two lines of business:

Set-top boxes: EchoStar has a hardware business that makes set-top boxes that are sold primarily to DISH Network, but also to some international customers. In 2006, this division shipped about nine million set-top boxes.
In October, EchoStar acquired Sling Media for about $380 million, and Sling Media is going to be part of EHC.

We believe our separation from ECC may enhance our opportunities to sell set-top boxes to a broader group of multi-channel video distributors. Historically, certain multi-channel video distributors have perceived us as a competitor due to our affiliation with ECC.

In other words, don’t be surprised if the company starts selling boxes to cable operators and other DBS companies.

Fixed Satellite Services: EchoStar owns (or leases) nine satellites and seven digital broadcast centers. It also has a fiber-optic network that has points of presence in 150 cities. This could mean that the company is going to start leasing capacity to other players, not just EchoStar.

The spin-off certainly sets up interesting scenarios: For instance, DISH can now be easily gobbled up by AT&T, though their deal is supposedly on the rocks. Another option is that DISH could aggressively bid on 700 MHz wireless spectrum, win some spectrum, and then offer some sort of a new broadband-enabled satellite TV service. A lot to think about, and of course a reason to make some calls.

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