– The two leading
direct-to-home satellite television providers each unveiled different strategies to exploit the exploding market for mobile video and television services.


EchoStar of Englewood, Colo., announced its own in-car satellite television service, called MobileDISH, according to a Jan. 8 press release from the company.


To design its product, EchoStar partnered with satellite antenna company RaySat of Vienna, Va., to produce its product, which installs an antenna directly on a vehicle’s roof rack and allows users to access DISH network programming in their cars, the release said.


EchoStar spokeswoman Corey Vasquez said in a phone interview Jan. 10 that the company has not announced when the product will be available to customers, though it will be sometime in 2007. She also declined to say what the cost of the service and equipment will be.


Meanwhile, El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV announced at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas
that it will offer a portable satellite television service called Sat-Go this spring.


The product incorporates a briefcase-sized package that includes a 17-inch monitor a receiver, antenna and battery. Sat-Go is targeting customers who want to receive DirecTV programming away from home, the release said, but the product cannot be used in a moving vehicle. Customers who want to get the portable service will have to purchase the unit for a price the company has yet to announce, and pay an additional $4.99 per month for the content.


Jimmy Schaeffler, chairman and chief service officer for the Carmel, Calif.-based Carmel Group, said EchoStar’s product is a new entry into a market with a number of existing competitors, but also addresses a market niche that likely will still serve a larger number of customers than DirecTV’s Sat-Go service will attract.


“I like the basic concept, which allows you to go from outdoors to indoors, but at the same time the [DirecTV} marketplace is somewhat limited,” Schaeffler said in a phone interview Jan. 11. He cited tailgaters, those who picnic and perhaps golfers as possible users of the device.


“The idea is for dual-tasking outdoors, but it’s not exactly a strong niche audience,” Schaeffler said.


Max Engel, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan of
Palo Alto
, is skeptical about how well satellite television providers will be able to permeate the mobile television and video content market. He noted in a Jan. 10 telephone interview that a number of competitors are either in the market already or making plans to enter it, such as the satellite radio providers.


Sirius Satellite Radio of New York has said that it plans to announce its strategy for the delivery of video content sometime in 2007.


“My first question is whether they’re really offering anything different than these other services,” Engel said. “It’s a playing-field question; they’re really in a crowded field.”


Engel also noted that it takes more bandwidth for satellite television providers to transmit video content than it does for other players, such as those relying on Internet Protocol technology.


“The disadvantages are not necessarily fatal, but … unless they’re doing something that makes this really special, it’s not the only place you can get it,” Engel said. “I don’t see it doing a lot to hold onto their customers.”


But Vasquez argued that those customers seasoned to EchoStar’s particular programming offerings will be inclined to want the service, particularly because of the cost incentives the company will offer when developing bundled packages to sell to its customers.


The International Consumer Electronics Show provided the opportunity for both companies to reveal some of the ways they will court new customers during the year. For DirecTV, that included the ability to receive DirecTV photo and music content on personal computers, and 100 new high-definition channels. EchoStar announced a package that would give customers free Digital Video Recorder receivers, and interactive programming offerings in the sports arena, including racing and cricket.


“The big differentiator between the two companies at [the show] was that EchoStar’s message was much more focused on the mass market, with DirecTV pursuing the niche markets,” Schaeffler said.