Satellite Split

Today’s SkyREPORT revisits EchoStar’s split. The division will result in two companies: DISH Networks (DISH), which provides direct-to-home satellite service, and EchoStar (SATS) which does…well…pretty much everything else – designs set-top boxes, provides fixed satellite services, and develops Sling Media technology.

The satellite service provides capacity on nine owned and leased in-orbit satellites, and includes a network of seven full-service digital broadcast centers and leased fiber PoPs in 150 cities. Here at SES, we’re looking forward to launching a new satellite for EchoStar.

How’s this split faring on Wall Street?

In a note released last week, William Kidd of Wedbush Morgan lowered his price target on DISH shares (stock that represents the new DISH Network DBS split) from $48 to $37. The move was made given that DISH shares solely represent the pay-TV assets.

While the bulk of the adjustment represents the split, Kidd also said $2 of the change is the result of the company’s recent decision not to raise prices for subscribers this year.

The two stocks are slightly down so far this year. (But what stock isn’t these days?).

The move allows EchoStar to sell its products externally:

Last week, Ergen said that the company is aggressively planning to sell products — from Sling Media-enabled modems to set-tops — to Dish Network’s video rivals, namely cable operators and phone companies.

Ergen and Blake Krikorian, co-founder and chairman of Sling Media, both described the efforts of the spinoff company, EchoStar Holding, to seek buyers for its products beyond the Dish direct-broadcast satellite service.

“As a set-top manufacturer, EchoStar will certainly try to build products and sell them to the cable industry,” Ergen said at a CES press conference.

And this gives the company a way to "better highlight the value of some of its lesser-known technology assets." That publicity definitely hit last week’s CES 2008 convention:

It’s HD DVR, the TR-50, won CNET’s "best in show" for home video:

If you think everybody has cable or satellite, you couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, if you live in an area that’s well-served by digital broadcasters, now’s a better time than ever to get your TV over the air (or "OTA," as the cool kids say): yeah, you get only a handful of channels, but they’re in crystal-clear digital quality–DVD quality at "worst," uncompressed high-definition at best. The problem–as we’re reminded by many an e-mailer–is that there just isn’t a good DVR solution for the rabbit-ears crowd, especially if you prefer high-def. (You can opt for a TiVo HD, but you’d still have to pay a monthly fee for their programming guide.) But that may finally be changing, thanks to the EchoStar TR-50. For all intents and purposes, the TR-50 takes many of the features found on Dish Networks’ excellent satellite DVRs (such as the ViP622 and 722) and brings them to antenna-based TV viewers.

And, after months of delays and questions, the company announced a SlingPlayer mobile version for the Blackberry:

This past week at CES, Sling Media demonstrated its SlingPlayer Mobile on a BlackBerry Pearl at the technology expo; up until now, SlingPlayer Mobile and BlackBerry haven’t played nice together. Sling Media hasn’t given a firm date on when the new player will be available, but states that it’ll be introduced "later this year" for $29.99.