Ergen Slings Set-Tops

Charlie Ergen and his new technology company, EchoStar Holding, last week said that they are aggressively planning to sell products — from Sling Media-enabled modems to set-tops — to Dish Network’s video rivals, namely cable operators and telcos.

Ergen and Blake Krikorian, co-founder and chairman of Sling Media, described the efforts of the spin-off company, EchoStar Holding, to seek buyers for its offerings beyond Dish Network, the direct-broadcast satellite service.

“Hopefully, other companies will buy product from us,” Dish Network CEO Ergen said during a press conference at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show.

At the show Sling Media, a subsidiary of EchoStar Holding, also announced the development and CableLabs certification of the first cable modem to fully integrate the place-shifting capabilities pioneered in the original Slingbox.

With the SlingModem, customers can watch and control their TV programming on any Internet-connected computing device just as they would in front of the living room television.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said he believes EchoStar Holding may be able to get some traction selling products to Dish Network competitors.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “EchoStar Holding has some interesting technologies, most importantly Sling Media. If EchoStar can show that they are truly independent, and I think they can, then Sling features could be enough to overcome any reservations operators might have about doing business with an Ergen-owned company. I don’t think their Dish Network ties will rule them out.”

At the CES press conference, Krikorian noted that when EchoStar bought Sling Media last year, customers and the TV industry had questioned whether EchoStar would limit his company’s focus to just products for Dish Network subscribers and other satellite TV service operators — all untrue.

“We’ll continue to sell products to retail and actually expand what we do there,” said Krikorian, noting that the first product coming out under EchoStar ownership is SlingModem.

“Clearly, satellite operators aren’t going to find a whole lot of use for this,” he said. “In fact, if they get close to it, they’ll probably smash it. This is ready for deployment. This speaks a lot to what you’re going to be seeing from EchoStar Holding going forward. We’re gong to work with a variety of operators around the world. Whether they’re satellite, whether they’re cable, whether they’re [Internet protocol], doesn’t matter.”

As of Jan. 1, EchoStar Communications split into two companies, video distributor Dish Network with more than 13 million subscribers and EchoStar Holding, which includes its set-top business and Sling Media.