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Commentary
Dish Network Gets Caught In '200 Channel' Scam
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (April 20, 2010) -- Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen was once banned from the Las Vegas casinos for 'counting cards," a practice outlawed in the gambling mecca.

Well, it appears that Ergen was better at counting cards then than he is today at counting HD channels.

Ergen's company yesterday morning announced that it was adding eight new High-Definition channels and therefore had become the first in the nation to offer 200 national HD channels.

The claim immediately drew my suspicion. Until yesterday, Dish claimed to offer around 160 high-def channels. So, I couldn't figure out how Dish got from 160 to 200 by adding eight.

I asked Dish Network's PR department for a list of the 200 HD channels, numbered from 1 to 200. Not too surprising, the company was evasive, saying the 200 HD channels could be found at its web site.


Is that Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen?

However, when I told them I could not locate more than around 130 HD channels listed at DishNetwork.com, the company's PR department got even more evasive -- and started to act a bit strange.

At one point, a company spokeswoman said she could give me a breakdown of the 200 HD channels on "background only," meaning I couldn't attribute the information to Dish Network.

That's right. Dish issued a press release earlier in the day that it now had 200 national HD channels, but it couldn't tell anyone what they were because it had to be kept secret. (FYI -- I refused to accept the offer of getting the information on background.)

By this time, needless to say, I had come to the conclusion that Dish's claim of having 200 national HD channels was bogus and possibly the most amateurish attempt at manipulating the media I've seen in three decades of journalism.

Finally, late in the day, Dish Network fessed up to Multichannel News that the 200 HD channel count included 57 HD PPV titles that were only available on the company's new VIP 922 SlingLoaded DVR. The movies are preloaded on the new DVR, which was introduced just a few weeks ago.

So, Dish was claiming that 57 HD PPV movies equaled 57 HD channels -- that is, it was claiming it in secret because it wouldn't tell anyone about it until it was pestered to death by the media.

For Dish to try to call one single movie a "channel" is just mind-blowing and stretches the definition of what makes a channel from here to Timbuktu.

By the way, the Princeton University definition of a TV channel is as follows:
"a television station and its programs." Is one movie a television station?

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Dish's remaining HD channels are 67 basic cable networks, 23 premium movie channels, four broadcast networks, 13 specialty channels such as the new EPIX HD channel, 25 regional sports networks and 15 additional PPV channels.

That comes to 147 HD channels, although one could make a strong argument that even the regional sports channels and PPV services should not be counted. Live professional sporting events on the regionals can not be seen nationally and the PPV channels show the same movie all day long.

But for Dish to go even further and count 57 movies as 57 channels -- 57 movies that can only be seen on one particular DVR -- is an embarrassment beyond compare.

Every Dish Network employee today should be hanging his or her head in total humiliation.

It's not their fault entirely, of course, but they work for a CEO who clearly believes that bending the rules is okay -- if you can get away with it.


Also see:
Consumer Reports: 'Best Buys' For HDTVs

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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be reached at swann@tvpredictions.com or at 703-505-3064.

Click TVPredictions.com to read more news and features on TV technology. 

 
 
 
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