Tag Archives: echostar

Internet TV eclipsing satellite services, says Ergen

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInRedditEmail

When one of satellite television’s great visionaries says that over-the-top (OTT) Internet delivery is the future of video, it’s worth taking him at his word. Charlie Ergen is the chairman and CEO of DISH Network, and the founder of EchoStar, a pioneering satellite TV manufacturer and distributor during the big dish days of the 1980s. According to a story by Daniel Frankel in FierceCable, Ergen believes that traditional linear television, the kind that DISH, DirecTv and cable companies sell, needs an overhaul if it’s going to remain a viable product…

Speaking to investment analysts and reporters during Dish’s fourth-quarter earnings call…Ergen said Dish had been “dragged into” this brand positioning by competitors such as AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Sony PlayStation Vue.

“Obviously, the DirecTV Now product is a direct replacement for cable and satellite,” he said. “So is the Sony product. We’ve gotten dragged into that, and maybe that’s not my first preference”…

“The decline of linear TV will be driven by how programmers react,” Ergen said. “If programmers continue to raise prices, if they continue to put 16-18 minutes of advertising into a show, it’s going to continue to decline. … You’ve got to make linear TV look more like an OTT product.”

For the next few years though, cable companies will be more vulnerable than satellite broadcasters like Ergen. Although small dish satellite platforms were never intended to be a purely rural product, they have a large, natural constituency outside of the mostly urban and suburban areas where cable companies offer Internet service that’s usually quite capable of delivering OTT programming.

It’s different in rural areas, where Internet service is a patchwork of expensive and poorly performing fixed wireless systems and generally slow DSL from telcos. And where AT&T intends to rip out copper networks, limit its customers to its own brand of slow wireless Internet service, and force them to rely on DirecTv – which it owns – or Ergen’s DISH for television.

Satellite first, FTTH (much) later

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInRedditEmail


Not all crazy ideas are crazy.

Netflix is talking about delivering ultra high definition content to its subscribers, using the 4K video format currently under development. Real time streaming of 4K content will require something like a 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps connection. Or it could be downloaded, over time, to in-home hard drives at slower speeds.

Either way, it would strain existing networks. A gigabit is only possible with fiber. In theory, cable modem service can support 100 Mbps speeds, but only for a very limited number of homes in a given area and only intermittently over long periods of time. Just supporting a constant 10 Mbps stream for a day or two is problematic.

That’s why any nationwide 4K content distribution is likely to first come via satellite.

HBO, for example, could make a satellite stream of 4K content available to a national market of 120 million homes today, for more or less the same cost as deploying that service via a cable or FTTH system that serves a town of 20,000 homes. Even if you factor in the cost of the satellite capacity, it’s still in the same ballpark as building a small FTTH system.

Satellite companies, such as DirecTv and DISH, were the first and most aggressive HDTV content providers in the late 1990s. They made satellite broadcasting’s economies of scale work to their advantage. As more homes bought HDTV sets, the balance starting tipping toward cable companies and they upgraded plant, so they could provide HDTV within their systems, first on a broadcast basis and then, as HDTV penetration grew, as an on demand service.

Eventually online companies, like Netflix, got into the HDTV game. But only because demand for megabit-class Internet service grew to the point where it could be deployed to and adopted by the majority of U.S. homes. HDTV was only one of many factors driving that demand.

It will take ten to fifteen years for the price of 4K technology to drop and consumer adoption to rise to current HDTV levels. At that point, it will be a demand driver for FTTH networks. In the meantime, look to satellite companies to lead.

Live from CES, 8 January 2009

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInRedditEmail

Last to first, real time tweets from Las Vegas…

  • WirelessHD press conference. Certification ready. 60GHz standard to link devices inside the same room to HDMI standards.
  • Clear thinker: Paul Liao, CTO Panasonic. Uses Maslow’s hierarchy to rate & rank tech features.
  • Clear, though, that there’s still a battle to be fought over how to split up content and application revenue in the wireless world.
  • Recognition that consumers will have lots of devices, but don’t want to pay lots of money to connect them all. There’s hope.
  • Went to Wireless Meets CE panel. Nokia, Intel, Panasonic, Verizon represented. Vague consensus: 1 sub fee/device model will “evolve”.
  • Heading to LVCC, bus line wasn’t long at all.
  • Charlie Ergen: kids love IPTV & it will spread from there. Complicated now but just wait.
  • DISH will sell 1080p downloads via Internet.
  • ETC pres Mark Jackson keynotes DISH news conf, doesn’t say “satellite” once. It’s about TV!
  • IPTV is now an integrated feature in mainstream TV products, services & platforms.
  • SlingGuide puts personal content search & control online.
  • SlingLoaded distributes video: TVs, PCs, iPhone, car, whatever.
  • EchoStar intros STB with IPTV, new “SlingLoaded” navigation across all video sources.
  • Waiting for EchoStar press conf to start.
  • At Sands, show feels empty so far.