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DirecTv Fires Back At EchoStar Suit

The proposed acquisition of a supplier of ethnic television broadcasts by EchoStar is at the center of a new battle in the old war between the nation’s two direct-broadcast satellite operators.

One day after DirecTv filed a countersuit in a Denver federal district court to EchoStar’s pending legal action on DirecTv’s alleged anti-competitive activities, EchoStar announced it had acquired Kelly Broadcasting, the New Jersey-based supplier of international television programming for digital television service providers.

Among several charges raised against EchoStar in the DirecTv countersuit was the claim that EchoStar has tried to interfere with the contractual agreement between DirecTv and Kelly Broadcasting. DirecTv said it signed an exclusive carriage agreement with Kelly last December giving it access to 16 non-Spanish ethnic television channels. DirecTv reached the agreement after its previous international programming supplier SkyView (formerly Ethnic American Broadcasting Corporation) ceased operations.

A DirecTv spokesman said his company intends to stick by its contractual agreement with Kelly, despite Echo-Star’s ownership position.

Meanwhile, DirecTv continued to fight EchoStar’s lawsuit for anti-competitive business practices by charging in its countersuit that the DiSH Network operator has misused the Primestar name and trademark in advertising and has made false and misleading statements to attract Primestar subscribers away from DirecTv.

DirecTv purchased Primestar last year and is aggressively trying to convert its subscribers over to the DirecTv higher-power DBS platform.

A DirecTv spokesman said EchoStar has run national advertising campaigns, targeting Primestar subscribers, that used the Primestar name and trademark.

Further, the countersuit alleges that EchoStar uses false and misleading advertising statements implying it offers NFL games through its distant-network broadcast packages. DirecTv points out that it has an exclusive right to carry the NFL Sunday Ticket league package, which it advertises extensively. EchoStar, the countersuit states, advertises its service as “Your ticket to the NFL,” although it is only able to deliver a limited number of games to a limited number of customers who qualify to receive distant network signals.

DirecTv does not specify an amount it is seeking for damage.