Echostar/DISH announced their intention to enter the IPTV marketplace, targeting telcos and rural cable systems with an IPTV MPEG-4 transport solution, branded as ViP-TV. ViP-TV General Manger Daniel Daines tells Telecompetitor, “Our solution will allow our partners to offer a DISH Networks television experience to their subscribers, utilizing a DSL or FTTH broadband network.” The announcement is sure to shake up the increasingly competitive IPTV transport/head end in the sky solution landscape. ViP-TV will offer 300 channels, including local broadcast signals from 165 local designated market areas (DMAs). Local broadcast HD feeds from 30 DMAs will also be offered. The ViP-TV programming suite includes ViP-Premier™, which offers 100 channels of national cable networks, ViP-HD™, which offers 40 channels of high definition programming; ViP-Movies™, a menu of 40 popular movie services; ViP-Latino™, offering 30 Spanish-language programming services; and the ViP-International™ programming package, providing 30 programming channels in 10 different languages. “We intend to begin offering signals to strategic telco partners in December, and expect paying customers on the platform in January 2008,” said Daines. He declined to name these “strategic telco partners.” Could this be Embarq’s IPTV strategy?
When asked about the impact of ViP-TV possibly slowing down DBS subscriber growth, Daines replied “We’re ok in slowing the growth of [direct to home], provided we replace it with ViP-TV.” Daines added that Echostar CEO Charlie Ergen is 100% behind the new Echostar IPTV strategy, adding “Charlie Ergen is just as excited about the prospects of IPTV as he was when he first launched direct to home DBS.” The solution includes transport, system integration, and equipment, including set top box solutions. I asked Daines about his competitors, and he replied, “Our competitors know the satellite business, and they do it well. We know the TV business, and we do that well. We have 12 years of experience in TV and 13 million subscribers.” ViP-TV has secured transport rights, but will work with third party content aggregators for content affiliation rights.
This is quite an interesting development. The competitive implications are almost too numerous to list. Who would have thought a couple years ago that a leading DBS service provider would decide to enter the IPTV business, and in some ways, compete with itself. There is much to sort out here including the reaction of Echostar’s extensive DISH dealer network (and retail partners). Daines is giving ViP TV a fairly aggressive timetable – “paying customers by January” – seems very optimistic. Time will tell, but for the time being, ViP’s competitors should have somewhat of a head start. More to follow.