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SBC Narrows Dish Push

Telco SBC Communications Inc. is throttling back its push for direct-broadcast satellite customers, posting lower numbers than expected during the first quarter.

The telco said it added 71,000 subs during the first quarter, bringing its total base of DBS customers to 394,000 in the year since SBC started reselling EchoStar’s Dish network.

That’s slower than analysts had expected, and SBC CFO Rick Lindner told them to expect it to stay that way.

“I think you are seeing somewhat of a shift in our emphasis with Dish,” Linder says during SBC’s conference call to discuss first quarter earnings.

The company first partnered with EchoStar to create a “bundle” of voice, data, and now video services, similar to the ones cable operators have crafted.

Instead of a shotgun approach, SBC will now concentrate on areas where cable operators are pushing telephone service the hardest.

“We are focusing Dish products right now in certain geographic areas and in certain customer segments where we believe we have the most competitive risk. So, therefore, we are really trying to focus our marketing and sales efforts with Dish in those areas where it provides the best retention benefit.”

Linder says that the company is averaging about $60 in revenue from each Dish customer it secures. SBC needs the help. The company’s telephone customer base shrank 4% over the past year.

The telco is looking to compete more directly with cable by deploying a fiber network that will carry video, but the first launch isn't set until 2007.