EchoStarâ€™s recent acquisition of Sling Media (manufacturer of the â€œplace-shiftingâ€ SlingBox) represents a continuing evolution for the operator of the DISH network, which services more than 13 million homes in the United States. From its earliest days as a DBS provider, EchoStar has long been a key player in the equipment manufacturing business globally, as satellite TV providers including Spainâ€™s Via Digital (now part of Sogecable) and Canadaâ€™s Bell ExpressVu have been key external customers beyond its own footprint. At the same time, in recent years Dish Network has begun to differentiate its own product from that of cable and DirecTV as one which emphasizes mobility (most notably through its relationship with Archos, another manufacturer of portable video players).
Going forward, the consumer electronics business faces different dynamics than the video distribution business â€“ as it often has in the past — and so EchoStar may deem to separate these activities. Innovation across a range of device-based services, including DVRs, allowed EchoStar to take an early technological lead as part of its video service offering. But as this innovation becomes easier to find through a range of other suppliers (although not exactly commoditized) the rationale for separating equipment from its other activities may lead EchoStar to develop separate â€“ though often intertwined â€“ public companies.