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EchoStar Settles Most Of Distant TV Dispute

9/04/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Faced with losing distant network satellite service for many of its more rural subscribers, EchoStar said it has settled nine years of litigation with most ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliate associations, agreeing to offer local network TV service in 175 markets, up from the 165 markets it now serves, by the end of the year.

The fight continues, however, with approximately 25 Fox Network owned-and-operated stations, which declined EchoStar's universal settlement offer and pulled out of the discussions late last week.

“Though unlikely, it is possible Fox's last minute tactic could derail the entire settlement and force EchoStar to seek legislation to protect its subscribers from disruption,” according to an EchoStar statement.

The Fox Network is controlled by News Corp., which also controls EchoStar rival DirecTV.

Over the course of its nine-year legal battle with network affiliate stations, EchoStar said it has reached settlements with almost 800 total stations.

Under terms of the settlement, EchoStar said it would expand carriage of local network channels by satellite to cover more than 95 percent of U.S. households.

EchoStar also agreed to pay the affiliate associations $100 million to protect its subscribers from the potential shut-off of their distant network channels.

Distant channels are ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox network channels that originate from a market outside the community in which the subscriber lives.

EchoStar said that less than one million of its 12 million subscribers receive distant network channels.

As part of the settlement, EchoStar agreed to re-qualify its distant network subscribers and terminate any channels provided to customers who are not eligible to receive them.

The deal is contingent on confirmation by the Federal District Court in Florida.

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