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EchoStar Unveils HDTV Product Bundle

Indianapolis – EchoStar used CEDIA Expo to announce that DISH Network would offer a new package of HDTV sets and decoder boxes, capable of receiving the satellite service’s standard and high-definition channels.

At the same time, EchoStar said its DISH Network would add a new premium tier of HDTV channels, beginning Sept. 16. The tier, which will require an extra $9.99 per month or $109.89 annual subscription fee, will include ESPN HD, Discovery HD Theater, HDNet and HDNet Movies. Three of the four are new to EchoStar and the tier matches an new HDTV tier recently started by rival DirecTV.

DISH Network also offers CBS-HD (in qualifying markets), HBO-HD, Showtime HD, and DISH-On-Demand pay-per-view HD movies.

In its HDTV equipment bundle, which EchoStar is calling its ‘Super DISH HD System,’ the satellite provider is offering customers the choice of a 34W-inch direct-view CRT HDTV monitor or a 40W-inch CRT rear-projection HD monitor. Either display will sell bundled with a DISH 811 HDTV/ATSC DTV decoder and new elliptical single-dish solution that will receive EchoStar’s standard definition and HD satellite feeds. The price for either package will be $1,499.

In place of the model 811 HDTV decoder box, EchoStar will also give customers the option of trading up to its formally announced DISH Player DVR-921 HDTV decoder and digital video recorder, combination device, for an extra $700.

EchoStar will launch the packages Nov. 1.

The DTV displays will carry the DISH brand, and will be open to EchoStar’s complete dealer base, meaning that even smaller satellite dealer/installers will have competitive HDTV display options to offer new subscribers.

EchoStar will only sell the sets as a package with the receiver, said Kirk White, EchoStar product marketing manager, although the 811 receiver or optional 921 HDTV PVR will also be sold separately.

The displays are manufactured by Thomson for EchoStar. EchoStar will handle distribution, sales and installation, and Thomson will handle product warranties.

‘We’re are looking to really push this via retail,’ White said. ‘DISH Network understands that if we are going to continue to evolve our customer base and we are going to expand into the higher early adopter customer segments, we really have a vested interest in penetrating the high-definition market place. Also, we were built on the mom-and-pops of the world selling and installing our DISH Network systems, and those are the folks who today are really getting beaten down’ by the national chains.

He explained that by making the package available to both large retail operations and smaller accounts on equal pricing terms, the small independent dealers ‘will finally be on equal footing with the bigger chains.’

White said the company would be announcing commission terms for the new products at its dealer conference in Baltimore in late October.

The new DISH 811 HDTV decoder is positioned as ‘the first affordable high definition receiver/decoder,’ and is slated for a fall delivery at a $399 suggested retail price.

The DISH Player-DVR 921, which will be available at the end of October, will carry a $999 suggested retail price, and will have a 250 GB hard drive capable of recording up to 25 hours of high-definition video or up to 180 hours of standard-definition content, or some combination of both.

The 921 also offers a dual tuner that allows the user to record two different shows while viewing a third pre-recorded show. The DISH Player-DVR 921 includes DISHWire connection for future downloading and storage of content, and an electronic program guide with computerized search function. It will output signals in 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i resolution levels.

Under EchoStar’s new policy, new purchasers of DISH PVR products will be required to pay an extra subscription fee for DVR capability under the Dish On Demand program. Fees vary according to a customer’s choice of subscription packages.

Meanwhile, EchoStar said it will lease the 322 and 522 standard decoders as part of a forthcoming ‘Digital Home Plan’ promotion. DISH also plans to lease the 811 HDTV decoder.