To help promote the availability of its local-channel
service in five new markets, EchoStar Communications Corp. said last Thursday that it will
offer free second direct-broadcast satellite dishes to new subscribers.
Vice president of marketing Mary Peterson said Dish Network
is promoting the offer through local advertising that broke last Thursday.
Dish Network has added digital feeds of local ABC, CBS, NBC
and Fox affiliates in Miami, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and San Francisco. Each
package also includes a national Public Broadcasting Service feed. In most cities,
subscribers need second dishes to receive both local-network feeds and mainstream Dish
Peterson said that while some consumers may be reluctant to
install two dishes on their homes, "our experience is that a dish is a whole lot
better than a large rooftop antenna."
In New York and Los Angeles, local signals are beamed to
EchoStar satellites at 119 degrees west longitude to act as East Coast and West Coast
distant-network feeds for unserved subscribers. The other local-broadcast signals are sent
to its satellites at 148 degrees or 61.5 degrees west, and they require second dishes.
For a limited time, EchoStar will waive the cost of the
second dish for first-time subscribers who also buy the local channels for $4.99 per
month. Installation costs $49 for the core system, plus $50 for the second dish, for the
duration of the promotion. As an alternative, first-time subscribers can get free off-air
antennae for local signals.
Not all Dish Network subscribers qualify for local channels
over DBS. Customers must pass a ZIP-code test and meet certain criteria -- such as not
having subscribed to cable in the past 90 days -- to determine eligibility.
EchoStar is encouraging legislation that would allow any
home within a given DMA to receive local-channel signals over DBS.
And the Federal Communications Commission said last week
that it is seeking comments on an EchoStar petition for rulemaking to define, predict and
measure "grade-B intensity" for purposes of the Satellite Home Viewer Act.
Comments are due Sept. 11.
Until now, there has been no easy way to determine who
qualifies for local or distant-network channel reception over satellite.
Peterson said EchoStar will probably continue to add
markets to its local-to-local lineup, even while all of the SHVA issues are being sorted
"We have a lot invested in local," she said.
"It makes perfect sense that people should have an alternative to cable."
Dish Network also delivers local channels in Boston; New
York; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; and Los Angeles.
Subscribers who meet a signal-strength test to determine
that they cannot receive grade-B-intensity signals may also qualify for