Dish Network Suffers Failed Satellite Launch

A new Ku-band satellite that was to be used by satellite-TV service Dish Network to increase its slate of HD channels failed to reach orbit after being launched from Kazakhstan Friday.

The AMC-14 satellite -- owned by SES Americom and under contract to EchoStar Corp., which provides satellite capacity for the Dish Network service -- launched normally from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Proton rocket. But the Lockheed Martin-built satellite failed to reach its planned orbit, according to a statement from launch vendor International Launch Services.

ILS said both it and a Russian state commission began investigating the launch failure, and it will release details when data become available. “ILS remains committed to providing reliable, timely launch services for all of its customers,” the company added. “To this end, ILS will work diligently with its partner, Khrunichev, to return Proton to flight as soon as possible.”

Regardless of the reason for the launch failure, the loss of AMC-14 casts significant doubt on Dish Network’s plan to expand from its existing 50-odd HD channels to 70-100 in order to better compete with DirecTV, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said. In a research note to investors, Moffett declared that the competitiveness of Dish’s HD offering has “suffered a major blow.”

“Dish Network had made it clear that HD featured prominently in their own future plans, and that they did not plan to cede ‘video superiority’ to anyone,” Moffett wrote. “Given the long lead times involved in contracting for, building, and launching a satellite, however, it could take years for Dish Network to fully recover.”

Moffett noted that Dish has two more satellites slated for launch later this year, but that they were intended to increase local HD services using spot-beam technology.