11. Dish Network Corporation
Revenues 2012: $ 14.270 billion (€ 11.107 billion)
The Dish Network Corporation’s company assets (formerly known as EchoStar Communications until the 6th of December 2007) leave their mark in space. By means of fourteen satellites, both leased and owned, Founder Charles W. Ergen succeeded in splitting open the seemingly almighty US cable monopoly from space. The company is split since December 2007. The Echostar Holding Co. supervises the hardware business of satellites and receivers, while DISH network is operated solely as a program platform. In 2006, the Dish cable network generated 94 % of total revenues, the lion’s share. The financial balance sheets of both companies have been processed separately since 2008. However, Charles W. Ergen remains the CEO in both companies.
DISH provides subscribers with digital television content via satellite. The program encompasses 2.500 digital channels featuring a further diversification into full programs, regional channels, niche channels, sports channels, news and pay per view channels as it is standard procedure in the world of cable networking. Since the end of 2008, more than 100 channels in HD quality complete the program bouquet. EchoStar Holding Co. is the company’s technology department. EchoStar develops and distributes DBS-Set-Top-Boxes, antenna systems and other devices intended for the reception of satellite programming, especially for the reception of DISH Network’s TV programs.
Dish Network Corporation,
9601 S. Meridan Blvd.
Englewood, CO 80120
Legal form: Public Company
Financial year: 1/1 -31/12
Founding year: 1980 (as 'Echosphere')
Revenues (in $ Mio.)
Profit (loss) after taxes (in $ Mio.)
Share price (in $, end of year)
Dividend (per Share, in $))
- Joseph P. Clayton, President and Chief Executive Officer
- Charles W. Ergen, Chairman of the Board
- James DeFranco, Executive Vice President
- Bernard L. Han, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
- Tom Cullen, Executive Vice President
- Robert E. Olson, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
- R. Stanton Dodge, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
- W. Erik Carlson, Executive Vice President, Operations
- Michael Kelly, President of Blockbuster LLC
- Stephen Wood, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
- Roger Lynch, Executive Vice President, Advanced Technologies
Board of Directors:
- Charles W. Ergen, Chairman, Dish Network Corporation
- Joseph P. Clayton, Dish Network Corporation
- James DeFranco, Dish Network Corporation
- Candy Ergen, Dish Network Corporation
- Steven R. Goodbarn, Secure64 Software Corporation
- Gary S. Howard, Liberty Media Corporation
- David K. Moskovitz, Dish Network Corporation
- Tom A. Ortolf, Colorado Meadowlark Corporation
- Carl E. Vogel, Charter
Major holders: Charles W. Ergen (42 % of shares, 58 % of voting shares), FMR Fidelity Management & Research Corp. (7%), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (5,53%).
Charles W. Ergen laid down the cornerstone for EchoStar Communications in 1980. Initially, he founded the Echosphere Company together with his wife Cantey and James DeFranco, a provider of satellite equipment. The company was adjudged a DBS licence in 1992 (‘Direct Broadcast Satellite’). From that point in time, Ergen focused all his efforts on the emerging satellite market, which he deemed to be the suitable competitor for the omnipotent cable network industry. In 1995, Echosphere was renamed to EchoStar Communications and the DBS-service entitled DISH (‘Digital Sky Highway’) was launched successfully in 1996. EchoStar became a listed company in as early as 1997. Following the one-millionth customer in 1997, the year 1999 saw the count hit the three million mark. By the end of 2006, Dish sported a grand total of 13 million subscribers.
On their journey to take control of the monopoly that would float across the skies over America, DirecTV and EchoStar, the two US market leaders in all things satellite television crossed their paths in 2002. DirecTV appeared to be the perfect fusion partner. The company is part of Hughes Electronic, of which the founder is the legendary industrial and aviation fanatic of Hollywood fame, Howard Hughes. However, the US ministry of media regulation Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibited the merger, due to the fact that the eventual result would have been be a market dominance of 91 % in the field of satellite television. The failed fusion cost EchoStar the not inconsiderable sum of 600 million $, because the company had to pay a walk-away penalty to Hughes Electronics. EchoStar managed to swiftly recover from the setback and successfully positioned itself in the US market. The overall positive development is first and foremost reflected in the number of employees.
1,930 employees worked at EchoStar in 1997 and the latest data puts the number as high as 26,000. According to the Wall Street Journal, the partnership with US Telecommunication Company SBC – a part of AT&T – which was sealed in summer 2003, played an integral part in this development. The SBC-EchoStar deal is based on ‘Bundling’, a praxis that combines different services into one account. As such, the first big telecommunications carrier of television, phone and Internet services was sold in the form of SBC. On December the 6th 2007, the company was finally renamed to Dish Network Corporation. The distribution partnership with AT&T ran out on the 1st of January 2009. Subsequently, the cable provider would collaborate with competitor DirecTV. As a result, the subscription numbers of the Dish services eroded dramatically. In the fourth quarter of 2008 alone, 100.000 subscribers sought left to find a new provider.
In April 2011, Dish Network acquired the insolvent assets of video rental chain Blockbuster for 320,02 million $, of which 228 million $ were paid in cash. Blockbuster was forced to go bankrupt in autumn 2010. The package included the rights to the program, approximately 1.700 stores scattered all across the nation and the technical distribution over the Internet, which Blockbuster failed to tackle at an earlier stage of the Internet’s expansion.
Like many large media companies, the Dish Network is distinguished by a dominating company personality. In this case, it is Charles Ergen (53). Ergen, who is widely known as an eccentric and impulsive character knows his gambling inside out: In his younger years, he earned money as a professional Blackjack player in Las Vegas, until one of the casinos banned him from entering the house due to using inadmissible tricks. Nowadays, he is a billionaire and notoriously tight. The workaholic is in the habit of turning up to business appointments in a shirt and with a sandwich. Rumours have it that he orders managers to book the cheaper night flights and share hotel rooms on business trips – sometimes with the man himself. Therefore, Ergen managed to land on the 51st place in the Forbes’ 100 in 2010, a list of the richest Americans, sporting a fortune of 5.2 billion $.
However, Charles Ergen’s dominant role within the company has been the subject of critical evaluation in the public sphere at an increasing rate. Governance Metrics International (GMI), one of the leading American corporate governance agencies based in New York, analysed 1.750 US companies in regards to their particular manner of company leadership; EchoStar was awarded one of the worst assessments in early 2005. First and foremost, it was the absence of an independent management board that had been criticised.
Satellite Television (DISH)
The program encompasses 2.500 digital channels featuring a further diversification into full programs, regional channels, niche channels, sports channels, news and pay per view channels as it is standard procedure in the world of cable networking. The programs are offered in the form of ‘channel packages’, which are named ‘America’s Top 100’ or ‘America’s Everything Pack’ for instance and of which the price range lies between 24,99 $ and 89,99 $ per month. On top of that, extra cinema and sport packages as well as foreign language programs are part of the catalogue. Ever since 2010, new programs are constantly being added to the high-definition HD range.
Two different competition scenarios shape the satellite TV market. On the one hand, companies have to survive in the face of competing satellite providers and on the other hand, there is always the competition from the cable business. The result is a competition of infrastructures.
Dish had been the fastest growing provider of digital television services in the United States since the mid-2000s. Despite the fact that DirecTV and its 19 million subscribers still had the upper hand over DISH and their 14,3 million customers, the latter continued to catch up with its competitor before the end of 2008. 2,6 million new subscribers were added to the ranks, a total of 3,4 % more new customers than the previous year. The DISH network primarily relies on innovative marketing techniques in order to achieve those numbers. A pilot project for prepaid television was launched in December 2005. Subscribers now had the opportunity to buy prepaid cards for their satellite receivers, which can be charged over and over again if necessary.
The traditional cable network providers constitute a second front. Through clever pricing and marketing strategy, the Dish Network was successful in winning over market shares. A process that was accelerated even further due to the bad image of cable network providers. On top of that, satellites are capable of transmitting to rural regions, to where no television cable can find its way. Even in the case that remote areas are connected to the cable network, there would often be a need for upgrades still, just to keep the network functional, as was the case for the little town of Center, Colorado in 2004. Because the citizens were not willing to pay half a million US-Dollar for their approximately 600 lines, they decided to cut the cables without further ado. Echostar took advantage of that situation and installed its dishes on the town’s rooftops.
In order to gain access to DSL broadband on top of the satellite services, which are only able to provide back channels through cable services for the time being, Echostar entered into the aforementioned cooperation with SBC Communications, number two amongst the US telecommunications providers. However, with the end of this distribution partnership looming ahead in December 2008, the whole business model is on razor’s edge. Should Dish prove unable to find a cable partner that markets Internet and a back channel together with the satellite program, DirecTV would have end up offering the considerably more lucrative service. Furthermore, the partnership had been the driving force behind a substantial part of the increase in customer numbers. About 17 % of the total new customers in 2008 found their way to Dish via AT&T. Approximately, one million out of all existing customers could be won over by means of the AT&T channel.
The increase in customer numbers slowed down during the economy crisis in 2009. Since 2010, Dish Network has been losing existing customer. In the fourth quarter of 2010 alone, 156.000 subscribers vanished from the books.
The years 2010 and 2011 saw the Dish Network entering into many content partnerships, including the Sony Movie Channel and the RFD-HD program package by the Rural Media Group, which delivers family friendly programs in HD-TV? Following tenacious negotiations, a proliferation contract was agreed upon with LIN TV Corp, which covered 17 first and foremost rural regions. Furthermore, the company acquired additional bandwidth, such was the case with the satellite operator DBSD North America, which went bankrupt in 2009 and TerreStar Networks.
The second supporting leg, the independently operating EchoStar took over Hughes Communications Inc. for 1,3 billion Dollars in 2011 with the goal of offering broadband Internet via satellite.
In terms of strategy, the Dish Network limps behind its competitors. Especially Comcast is shaping up to become an overpowering giant as a result of the NBC takeover in January 2011. Although a Comcast-owned channel must supply the competition with NBC programs, the merger strengthens the already powerful market dominance of Comcast-NBC.
The EchoStar Holding Corporation is responsible for satellite reception technology. Independent companies produce the devices according to the conceptions and requirements of EchoStar. EHC’s business is the technological support of the DISH Network. Apart from providing the receiver and associated accessories for the reception of DISH Network’s channels, EHC is selling digital satellite receivers all over the world. EHC also offers technical devices to be used for Internet via satellite. For this purpose, a standard DSL broadband is used for the back channel (upload) and the download(s) benefit from the very high transmission rates via satellite. The disadvantage of satellite Internet is twofold. On the one hand, the benefit of a wide bandwidth is countered with the slow response time (Ping) of satellites, which renders the technology unsuitable for software that relies on fast reaction times, such as games. On the other hand, EchoStar is dependent on a cooperative cable network provider in order to use this technology. In October 2007, EchoStar acquired the Set-Top-Box provider SlingMedia for 380 million Dollars. The SlingBox uploads the domestic television program to the Internet, thus making it possible to watch one’s own satellite channels from every corner of the earth. Furthermore, EchoStar is investing in the design and improvement of the technologies used in Set-Top-Boxes to make sure that the service provides the customer with the most sophisticated technology possible.
Therefore, subscribers have the opportunity of leasing digital video recorders or use receivers, which enable interactive television. A verdict in the patent court case TIVO vs. Echostar could have dramatic consequences for EchoStar – and Dish for that matter. The receiver manufacturer TIVO sued over the usage of the patented timeshift function in Set-Top-Boxes featuring digital video recorders as early as 2004. By the end of 2008, TIVO won the trial. EchoStar filed a countercharge and managed to force the case over the patent to be reopened in February 2011. Due to the fact that TIVO did not grow as extensively as it had been predicted, EchoStar deems its chances of a juridical victory over the small competitor to be rather substantial. TIVO even had to run into more debts just to cover the cost of the trial. A decision from the US Court of Appeal is still pending.
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