EchoStar eyes b'cast assets, VOD expansion

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NEW YORK - Satellite TV provider EchoStar Communications finds broadcast assets attractive as potential acquisition targets and could well start doing day-and-date film release trials with movie studios - as cable operators have done - as part of its expansion of video on demand offerings, management said in its quarterly earnings call Thursday.

Asked about recent reports that EchoStar bid for broadcast assets, namely Ion Media Networks, president and vice chairman Carl Vogel declined comment on specific companies. But he told analysts: "We keep looking for things that are complimentary" where EchoStar can leverage its expertise in providing content and the like. "Broadcast assets are similar to what we do today. We find that catgory attractive."

Management also said it expects to keep expanding the number of movie titles it offers on-demand via its hard drives, whose capacity it keeps boosting. Asked about cable firms' day-and-date trials, they said nothing precludes EchoStar from getting such trials as well. Executives didn't say though if they currently had any plans for such trials.

EchoStar on Thursday reported a first-quarter profit increase of 6.7% to $157.1 million as revenue rose 15% to $2.64 billion.

The firm added 310,000 net new subscribers in the latest period, up 38% from the 225,000 added in the year-ago quarter. The additions compared to the 235,000 net new subscribers that competitor DirecTV Group reported on Wednesday, which was down from 255,000 in the year-ago period. EchoStar ended the first quarter with about 13.415 million users.
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