Dish to Add High-Def, Freeze Some Rates

1/11/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen said his company plans to launch four satellites this year, with three of those for domestic use, helping facilitate an expansion to 100 national high-definition channels from 76.

“It's really one per quarter,” Ergen said during a news conference at the International Consumer Electronics Show. “That allows us to go to those 100 channels of HD in those hundred cities, assuming there's 100 channels to broadcast, which we think there will be by the end of the year.”

The fourth satellite will service China, according to Ergen.

In addition to pumping up its HD offerings, Dish sought publicity for a price freeze that actually is limited in scope to certain packages. In fact, a Wall Street analyst said Dish is actually raising prices for most of its offerings, by an average of 8%.

Dish said it was keeping the price of its DishDVR Advantage offer at $39.99 or $49.99, depending on the programming selected, until February 2009.

“We may be wrong on this,” Ergen said. “But it just makes a lot of sense to give a customer a great value every day and they know where they stand. Imagine if your electricity bill was the same every month, instead of going up and down.”

But Ergen pointed out there were price increases in store for other Dish Network offerings, such as the America's Top 100 and America's Top 200 packages, a point that Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett — who was at the press conference — stressed in a note afterward.

The freeze “only applies to a small portion of their base that subscribes to a single specific package, DishDVR Advantage,” Moffett wrote. “The company intends to raise prices in almost every other tier in 2008.”

Dish Network is raising prices for its Top 100 package by 15%, and for Top 250 by about 3.7%, according to Moffett. Overall, the price increases average about 8%, he wrote.

Moffett also pointed out that Dish Network had “sharply scaled back its promotional stance.”

During the press conference, Ergen said, “I personally don't like the discounting side of the business. I think we're trying to simplify business. I think we got away from that a little bit with some of the crazy promotions we did.”

Promotions confuse and annoy customers, prompting calls to Dish Network, Ergen said.

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!