By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LITTLETON, COLO. EchoStar recently announced that its DISH Network has reached the 6 million - subscriber milestone.
The DBS providers said the 6-million figure was passed approximately seven months after hitting the 5 million mark. EchoStar said the rapid ascent resulted from its "superior" channel offerings, low monthly cost and Digital Home Plans that offer a digital satellite TV system with no equipment to buy.
"We're pleased that 6 million households, or more than 15 million viewers, have chosen DISH Network as their television provider," said Charlie Ergen, EchoStar CEO. "DISH Network has come a long way since it reached its first million customers in 1997."
EchoStar expects to reach its target of 1.5 million to 2 million net new subscribers for the year.
Meanwhile, EchoStar confirmed speculative reports that it was making a bid for rival Hughes Electronics, parent of DirecTV, during an on-air chat program with DISH executives, when Ergen acknowledged that EchoStar is interested in buying DirecTV. However, he added, negotiations have not begun.
EchoStar was said to be close to lining up $3 billion in short-term financing from several investment banks in its bid for Hughes Electronics, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper said UBS Warburg and Morgan Stanley have indicated they will supply the bridge financing needed by EchoStar.
Ergen is expected to offer between $5.5 billion and $6 billion in cash as part of a proposal to merge with Hughes, according to the Journal.
News Corp., which is believed to have made a similar, cash offer, continues to work out a deal to acquire Hughes. However, the Financial Times reported last week that EchoStar had not yet landed all of the partners needed to make a bid, which could help News Corp.'s efforts.
Murdoch reportedly told investors he is close to a deal that would enable News Corp. to take control of Hughes and DirecTV.
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