DISH gets HD boost with successful satellite launch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - DISH Network Corp's DISH.O plans to roll out more high definition video channels received a boost in the early hours of Wednesday after the successful launch of its EchoStar XI broadcast satellite.

DISH, the second-largest U.S. satellite TV operator, needs to roll out more HD channels to be able to compete with larger rival DIRECTV Group DTV.O as well as cable and phone companies' video services.

The Denver, Colorado-based company's HD plans were set back in March when a satellite launch by SES Americom failed to reach its intended orbit following its launch on board a Russian Proton Breeze-M launch vehicle. The SES Americom satellite was entirely contracted by DISH sister company EchoStar Corp SATS.O.

DISH said earlier this month it would add another 17 national HD channels bringing its total to 100 ahead of its original year-end target. DIRECTV has said it will have 150 HD channels by the year-end.

DISH also said it would introduce TurboHD, an all-HD programming package.

The satellite operators are aggressively pushing HD as a way of differentiating themselves from cable operators, who are also launching more HD channels at a rapid pace but are on average still behind the satellite operators.

“Offering a wide variety of HD channels is important among pay-TV providers and is really important in today’s market,” said Thomas Eagan, analyst at Collins Stewart.

“DISH would have been at a disadvantage to its competitors if this satellite did not launch successfully,” he added. (Reporting by Yinka Adegoke, editing by Dave Zimmerman)