Video services

Bird Problems

Any plans Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) had to catch up to DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) on the HDTV front hit a roadblock this weekend when a new satellite, being leased from SES Americom , failed to reach its intended orbit.

Some early reports speculated whether it would be a total loss. Well, maybe not. According to Steve Donohue, who has more on the situation over at Contentinople, the AMC-14 satellite "appears to be functional," but the bird's expected 15-year lifespan may be shortened.

According to today's 8-K filing from Dish, the "launch anomaly" will delay the rollout of some hi-def networks, including an undisclosed number of local channels. The company wasn't more specific about the length of those delays. But at least one analyst suggests the setback won't be trivial.

"Given the long lead times involved in contracting for, building and launching a satellite… it could take years for Dish Network to fully recover," said Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett in a research note, but he pointed out that Dish has two more satellites slated for launch later this year. Those are expected to expand Dish's local HD capabilities, but it's unclear whether they can be repurposed. "By the time contingency plans have been executed, Dish will likely be playing catch-up."

The situation will certainly slow down Dish's attempt to grow its HD menu to more than 100 networks and challenge DirecTV's linear superiority in the hi-def category. It will also give cable a bit of a breather as operators begin to beef up their linear and on-demand VOD offerings. (See Cox Aims for 80 and Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity'.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 3:45:28 PM
re: Bird Problems Looks like EchoStar isn't the only one facing new satellite issues these days. Now there's word the DirecTV 11 bird is delayed so those involved can "study an issue": http://www.boeing.com/special/...
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