Sometimes, success requires willingness to roll the dice. Dish Network was founded by a pair of professional gamblers, Charlie Ergen and Jim DeFranco. In 1980, having been expelled from a Lake Tahoe casino after being accused of counting cards at blackjack, they decided to enter the satellite TV business. Since then, their willingness to take risks has served them well, enabling them to move aggressively into new markets, surpass their competitors in developing new technologies, and build a satellite TV business that now serves more than 14 million subscribers.
Along wth Ergen's future wife, they invested $60,000 in a new satellite TV company they called the Echosphere Corporation. They bought two C-band antennae and marketed their satellite service in rural Colorado, where cable TV service was non-existent. Driving through rural areas near Denver, they sold satellite dishes off the back of a truck.
Echosphere was a minor player in the TV industry until 1990, when Ergen raised $335 million in junk bonds to buy orbital slots for satelliites. The Federal Communications Commission issued a DBS (direct broadcast satellite) license to the company in 1992. With the license, the company, soon to be renamed Echostar, got its own geostationary orbital slot. Echostar launched its Digital Sky Highway (DISH) service in March of 1996. Competing directly with Primestar, United States Satellite Broadcasting, and DirecTV, it sold five programming packages, with monthly fees ranging from $19.99 to $59.99. Dish Network had 100,000 subscribers by August of 1996. The following month, Echostar launched a second Dish satellite, enabling it to add 350,000 subscribers by the end of the year.
In 1998, Echostar bought satellite broadcasting assets jointly owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and MCI Worldcom. This brought in enough transponder licenses to more than double the Dish broadcasting capacity in the continental United States. The acquisition also enabled the invention of a multi-satellite dish system called the Dish 500, with one dish able to receive signals from multiple satellites, and with a theoretical capacity of more than 500 TV channels. That same year Echostar, in partnership with Bell Canada, launched Dish Network Canada.
In 2008, Dish Network and the Echostar Corporation split into two companies, both publicly traded, though with Charlie Ergen holding a controlling interest in both. Dish Network handles programming, marketing, and customer service. Echostar maintains the satellite fleet and other signal infrastructure.
More than any other cable or satellite TV provider, Dish Network has placed a high priority on technical innovation. Dish released the industry's first high definition television (HDTV) tuner in 1999. In August of 3003, with the Echostar IX, the first satellite to broadcast a KA band broadband signal., Dish was the first multichannel TV provider to offer local stations in all fifty states. The following year, Dish offered America's first picture-in-picture (PIP) feature.which would enable watching two or more channels at once on a single TV set, in time for the Olympic games.
Dish has been more active than most cable or satellite TV providers in upgrading its equipment. In 1999, Dish used Microsoft software to provide the first digital video recorder (DVR) packaged with cable or satellite TV service. In 2003 Dish Network was one of the first cable or satellite TV providers to offer a dual-tuner DVR. With the extra tuner, your DVR would record two TV shows at once, or you could watch one show while recording another. In August of 2011, Dish released the Tailgater, an integrated Dish antenna you can take with you when traveling, so you can get your satellite TV service away from home. You don't have to align the Tailgater the way you would a standard satellite dish; it locks onto the satellite signal automatically. At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Dish unveiled the Hopper, its advanced whole-home HD-DVR with Auto-Hop capability. With Auto-Hop, you can skip the commercials for an entire primetime lineup automatically. without ever having to press the fast forward button. The Hopper with Sling also transfers ('slings') TV shows to mobile devices such as laptop computers, tablets, and smart phones, so you can watch your shows while away from home.
Dish Network offers a wide variety of programming options, and charges sightly less than cable TV companies do for similar channel packages.
Dish Network has long been an industry leader in technology. Its Tailgater is a portable antenna system that you can take with you to get your Dish service while away from home. The Hopper-Joey whole-home HD DVR is the most advanced DVR in the industry, and Dish Network offers several options for transferring shows to mobile devices.
Dish Network carries a far more extensive lineup of international channels than any other pay TV provider does.
Dish Network carries one of the most complete channel lineups of any cable or satellite TV provider. It offers a wide variety of channel packages, so you should have no difficulty finding one that meets your budget and interests, if you want to connect more than one or two TVs, Dish Network will charge lease fees for additional receivers, and small monthly premiums for HD, DVR, or Hopper upgrades. If you qualify, your regular monthly rates will be discounted sharply for your first year of service, with a two-year agreement. For a limited time, you can get premium movie channels free for three months.