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AT&T-EchoStar Rumor Returns

It's been a busy week for EchoStar Satellite LLC , and it's not even Friday yet.

In addition to generating news with announcements of its own, including a plan to spin off its tech unit and buy Sling Media Inc. for $380 million, the rumor mill is again humming about a marriage of the satellite TV giant with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).

The report says AT&T is offering $55 per share, though EchoStar may hold out for as much as $65, while Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. analyst Thomas Eagen speculated Thursday in a research note that the telco would pay about $56 per share.

But rather than seeing Sling go into the separate tech division, it could stay with the consumer satellite TV side of the company and serve as a differentiator, according to the news report.

“Given the success of the cable triple play and the lack of success of AT&T’s U-verse rollout, it seems to us a matter of when, not if, AT&T acquires EchoStar,” Eagan wrote.

With rumors like these, the potential for direct deals between Sling and cable operators appears to be fading fast, despite word of a new Slingbox in the making that will house a Docsis 2.0 cable modem. (See CableLabs Certifies Secret Slingbox Gear and CableSling .)

Then again, consumers don't need those deals to come together to enjoy the benefits of place-shifting. They can just buy it off the shelf. And, with the new "SOLO" product from Sling, the price of place-shifting using HD components just got cheaper. (See Sling Goes 'SOLO'.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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