EchoStar Ordered to Stop Out-Of-Market Transmissions

According to a nationwide injunction that was issued by U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitouleas in Fort Lauderdale, EchoStar Communications must stop selling out-of-market station feeds of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox programming to 800,000 of its subscribers. The judgment will affect fewer than 1 million of EchoStar’s 12.46 million Dish Network customers.

EchoStar’s options until the deadline include requesting that a higher court narrow the injunction and seeking the help of Congress during the lame-duck session, which starts November 13.

“This is a clear setback for EchoStar. EchoStar's best hope now is that the appeals court will stay this Dec. 1 cutoff date and hear the appeal,” said Paul Gallant, a Stanford Washington Research Group media analyst.

The company had settled a copyright dispute with all the aforementioned stations, save Fox stations owned by News Corp. Judge Dimitouleas sided with News Corp. and refused to issue an injunction affecting only the 25 markets with News Corp.-owned Fox stations.

Solutions for EchoStar customers that have lost distant network services are subscribing to cable for network programming, subscribing to EchoStar’s local package or signing up for a distant signal package with DirecTV (for customers who are legally entitled to buy distant signals).

Customers eligible to legally buy distant signals via satellite are not supposed to have over-the-air access to local network programming. Federal Courts have found that EchoStar repeatedly sold distant signals to hundreds of thousands of ineligible customers, resulting in lawsuits from TV stations claiming that the signals unfairly impacted their advertising revenue.

In a statement released earlier this week, EchStar sated that it “will continue to do everything possible to prevent consumers from losing their distant network channels. We will ask Congress to clarify the statutory language, and ask the courts to reconsider their decision. In addition, we are taking numerous steps to protect our customers from unnecessarily losing access to those channels.”

EchoStar plans to make off-air antennas available in areas where customers can’t receive local signals.