DENVER – The nation's No. 2 satellite television (search) provider wants to dish out free service to any town willing to rename itself "Dish."
EchoStar Communications Corp. (search), which operates the Dish Network (search), said Tuesday it will provide 10 years' worth of free satellite television service for every household in a U.S. town that legally makes the change.
The service will include a receiver, standard installation and a programming package for every household. In exchange, the municipality must change its name permanently, including on buildings and signs.
The service would cost about $4 million for 1,000 households, the nation's No. 2 satellite television provider estimated. Interested cities have until Nov. 1 to submit a proposal.
"It's an exciting concept and we hope it will become a buzz of any town large or small," EchoStar spokesman Mark Cicero said.
The promotion comes on the heels of EchoStar's newest advertising campaign and a contest that will allow the winner to name EchoStar's next satellite.
"EchoStar comes up with some cute marketing campaigns," said Janco Partners telecommunications analyst Matthew Harrigan. "Sometimes they are a little bit offensive; this isn't offensive, but I don't know what the point of it is."
EchoStar is positioning itself to face stiffer competition not only from rival DirecTV but also from telephone companies and cable companies ramping up Internet services.
"They're having trouble adding customers," Harrigan said. "Their market is getting very saturated and they don't have a bundle like the cable companies do, so it's difficult for them."
Englewood-based EchoStar added about 225,000 net subscribers during the second quarter, a 33 percent drop from new customers in the second quarter of 2004. Its total of 11.5 million subscribers was up 13 percent.
DirecTV reported a 45 percent drop in net subscriber additions in the second quarter to put its total at 17.7 million, up 12.5 percent.
EchoStar's name-change bid is not the first. In the 1950s, the New Mexico town of Hot Springs legally changed its name to Truth or Consequences after a popular television program.