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EchoStar Ups High-Def Ante

DBS operator EchoStar Communications says that its DISH Network service is now carrying local HDTV broadcast channels in 11 new markets, including Dallas; Houston; Miami; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; and Spokane, Wash.

EchoStar has been steadily expanding its HD lineup this year and now offers local HD channels to customers in 24 cities, for an additional fee of $5 per month. EchoStar says it now broadcasts over 1,700 hours of HD programming every week across 23 available high-def channels.

Along with increased carriage of local HDTV broadcasters, new additions to the $49.99-per-month “DishHD” service (which includes 70 standard-def channels) in 2006 include ESPN2 HD, Universal HD and five new original VOOM HD channels.

EchoStar plans to reach more than 50% of U.S. TV households with local HD channels by year's end.