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Satellite firm adds content partner

Satellite broadcasting service EchoStar signs on EnterMedia Network as part of its strategy to deliver broadband interactive content.

Satellite television broadcasting service EchoStar today signed on its first content partner as part of its new strategy to deliver broadband interactive content such as news, weather, and shopping links using its satellite network.

EchoStar today signed on EnterMedia Network (EMNetwork) to provide interactive programming to its soon-to-be released service. EMNetwork will supply Web-based programs that feature full-motion video and high-quality audio bundled with interactive services such as chat, viewer polls, and text.

EMNetwork, which formed just two months ago, is working with a number of partners to transform standard television-style shows into more interactive offerings. Its programming partners include House of Blues; music news and information service SonicNet; Soundz Of, a program about independent-label bands; and an interactive cartoon series called WebTrips. Each of these programs will be featured on EchoStar's service.

The new EchoStar service, which has not yet been named, will allow satellite television users to run an additional coaxial cable from the 18-inch EchoStar satellite dish to the back of a computer terminal and receive interactive content. The service will then transmit high-resolution and multimedia content via satellite that would otherwise be difficult to access using slower-bandwidth phone lines, an EchoStar spokesman said.

Once received, the content will run into the computer's hard drive, where it can be accessed later. Users of the service will have to use a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) card to convert the signals.

The impending convergence of PCs and television has many observers watching for alliances such as the one between EchoStar and EMNetwork.

Earlier this month, NBC purchased a 6 percent stake in Intertainer, which provides on-demand video entertainment and shopping services. That move also was made with PC-TV convergence and impending broadband access in mind.

Further down the road, EchoStar is planning to release a line of set-top boxes, hoping to integrate its PC service onto television sets, the spokesman added. The set-top boxes will be released in the fourth quarter of 1998 or the first quarter of 1999, the spokesman said.