EchoStar settles network distribution case

EchoStar, the direct-to-home TV provider, will pay $100 million to settle a long-running legal dispute with TV stations about transmission of network programming over its DISH network.

In an agreement with the NBC, CBS, ABC affiliate groups, EchoStar said it would pay the $100 million to protect its subscribers from the potential shut-off of their network programming from non-local stations. EchoStar said litigation continued with about 25 Fox owned-and-operated stations.

As part of the deal, EchoStar said it would requalify subscribers to make sure they were eligible to receive network signals and terminate those who weren’t. It also agreed to expand its local network channel to 175 markets, from 165, by the end of 2006. This will extend satellite service to about 95 percent of the U.S. population.

The U.S. District Court in Florida must approve the final settlement.