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EchoStar Eyes Canadian Slot

U.S. satellite-TV companies are turning to Canada’s underused satellite spectrum as a way to deliver local channels to more American markets. After DirecTV  Inc. won permission from the Federal Communications Commission to move one of its satellites into a Canadian satellite slot, EchoStar Communications Corp. officials said last week that they are looking at the idea, too.

 “We’re considering that option now that the FCC has opened this up,” they said.

DirecTV will be able to offer local channels in 24 additional markets and to 7 million more homes by using frequencies controlled by Telesat Canada. After moving its DirecTV5 satellite into position, the company will add the local broadcast channels beginning late September through early October. In all, DirecTV will offer local channels in 130 markets accounting for 92% of U.S. TV households.

DirecTV’s agreement with Telesat allows it to be the only U.S. user of the Canadian channels through the end of 2008. By then, Telesat plans to launch a new satellite that will dedicate up to 50% of its capacity for “foreign broadcast needs,” including other U.S. DBS providers. As part of its deal with Telesat, DirecTV is providing a second satellite that Canadian DBS provider ExpressView will use to increase the number of channels offered to subscribers in that country.