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EchoStar Debuts 4 HD Channels, Games, Internet

EchoStar said it has added four new high-definition TV channels to its DISH Network satellite TV service and has signed an agreement to carry high-speed Internet service from WildBlue.

The new channels include HGTV HD, NFL Network HD, National Geographic Channel HD and Starz HDTV. With the additions, the service now provides a total of 29 HD channels, which the company pointed out is “the most national HD channels offered by any pay-TV provider in the United States.”

Customers who subscribe to DishHD Bronze or higher tier will have access to both HGTV HD and NFL Network HD.

The National Geographic Channel HD will be available to DishHD Gold subscribers.

Subscribers to DISH’s Starz Movie Pack service or DishHD Platinum will have access to the Starz HDTV channel.

At the same time, DISH Network also said it will add a new interactive application called DishGAMES as part of its “DishHOME” interactive channel 100.

Sixteen games from PixelPlay’s branded games will be offered, including Asteroids Mega and Centipede Mega.

To subscribe to DishGAMES, customers can select an on-screen “subscribe” button using their remote control which will connect them directly to the interactive TV customer service application. The service fee is $4.99 per month or $49.99 annually. New customers will have access to all 16 games for the first five weeks, after which the games will rotate out weekly from a library of titles. All games will also be available for non-subscribers in demo mode.

Meanwhile, EchoStar said it has reduced the upfront lease fee of its HD digital video recorder by $100, to $199, and is offering a free equipment upgrade to customers leasing its standard HD receiver.

New customers subscribing to DishHD Bronze or higher can also save $200 combined with its current $100-back offer.

To take advantage of the HD Bonus promotion, new customers must submit a redemption form with their first bill to receive the benefits, which in turn provides a $20 credit on each subsequent bill for 10 months. Both the discounted lease upgrade offers and the HD Bonus will run through Jan. 31, 2007.

Meanwhile, EchoStar said it signed a five-year wholesale distribution agreement with WildBlue Communications to offer satellite-delivered broadband Internet service to its subscribers.

The service, dubbed “DISH High-Speed Internet, powered by WildBlue,” will be targeted rural market subscribers.

The service offer will begin in the fall, with DISH Network handling all acquisition, installation and customer care calls. Pricing will be announced later.