EchoStar not ruling out DirecTV merger


LAS VEGAS - Satellite TV operator EchoStar Communications Corp. has not ruled out merger talks with larger rival DirecTV, but plans to wait for Liberty Media to gain control of DirecTV, EchoStar Chief Executive Charlie Ergen said Monday.

"There's a merger on the table; facetiously, it's not us," Ergen told the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, referring to Liberty Media Holding Corp.'s acquisition of control of the top U.S. satellite TV operator from News Corp.

"It will take all of 2007 to get done. We'll see what it looks like after that," he said.

Ergen said previous attempts to merge with DirecTV Group Inc. had distracted EchoStar from focusing on its operations strategy.

He pointed to potential areas where the two rivals could work together, saying they could share satellites at a time when television services aim to deliver more high-definition channels to subscribers.

At a press conference, EchoStar also said it plans to offer subscribers free high-definition digital video recorders. Subscribers will need to pay an additional $20 to get access to a package of high-definition channels.