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L.A., N.Y. Get Local HDTV On Dish

Englewood, Colo. — EchoStar announced that it has begun delivering local HDTV channels over its Dish Network to eligible subscribers in the New York and Los Angeles market areas.

Dish will carry affiliate stations for the four major networks in both markets.

In New York, Dish will carry: ABC Ch. 7 (WABC), CBS Ch. 2 (WCBS), NBC Ch. 4 (WNBC) and FOX Ch. 5 (WNYW).

In Los Angeles the satellite service will carry: ABC Ch. 7 (KABC), CBS Ch. 2 (KCBS), NBC Ch. 4 (KNBC) and FOX Ch. 11 (KTTV).

Dish is offering next-day installation on an HD satellite system to new customers who sign up for DishHD through a local RadioShack retailer before Feb. 28.

Dish Network offers local channels via satellite to New York area customers in 14 counties including: Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester. In addition, Dish Network will deliver HD locals in 13 New Jersey counties including: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren, and to customers in Fairfield County, Conn., and Pike County, Pa.

In the Los Angeles area, local HD channels will be offered to subscribers living in eight Los Angeles counties, including: Inyo, the eastern part of Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, areas in Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.

Subscribers looking for HD service will have a choice of four different package options, starting at $49.99 a month. Customers can add local channels in both high definition and standard definition for $5 a month.

In addition, Dish Network will launch high-definition local channels through its satellite service in up to 50 markets in 2006, reaching more than 50 percent of U.S. TV households by year end. Other cities expected to receive local HDTV service soon include Chicago and Boston.

To accommodate the increased bandwidth requirements of the new HD channels, Dish Network will begin transmitting them in the MPEG-4 compression standard.

To receive those channels, subscribers must have a new set-top decoder box with MPEG-4 capability. The company recently introduced a new ViP series of satellite receivers that combine MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 signal capability.

Existing customers with MPEG-2 equipment, such as the Dish Player DVR 942, will continue to receive their current content but will need to upgrade to a new ViP Series receiver to receive the new HD stations, EchoStar said.

The satellite provider also said it will offer “a convenient upgrade package for existing customers who want to expand their HD lineup to include the new channels.”

The new MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 HD decoder model ViP211 is being offered at $49.99 for new lease customers.

EchoStar will also add other HDTV channels using MPEG-4 compression in 2006. Planned new channels include five new VOOM HD channels — bringing the total VOOM channels to 15 — as well as other new HD networks, including ESPN2 HD and Universal HD.

In other news, EchoStar said it has reached a multi-year agreement to return the standard-definition Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network channels to Dish Network, ending a messy dispute over a recent steep rate hike asked by the Lifetime.

Lifetime Television was returned to the America’s Top 60 and Dish Latino Dos programming packages, while Lifetime Movie Network returned to the America’s Top 180 package.