2008 Year in Review: Satellite TV partnerships remain important

As IPTV offerings expand and continue to collect subscribers, what is to become of the satellite TV partnerships that helped telcos get started in the TV business? Not much, apparently, if activities in 2008 suggest anything. AT&T started the year with two satellite TV partners, DirecTV and Dish Network, that it received in its BellSouth acquisition. AT&T decided to let its partnership with DirecTV end, then later decided to extend its Dish partnership through the beginning of next year, but then ultimately decided to forge a new long-term resale partnership with DirecTV after the Dish deal ends in early 2009.

AT&T and other telcos continued to see good growth from these resale arrangements, which remain significant bundle elements, so it doesn't look like the satellite partnerships will be pushed out of the picture by wireline telco TV offerings anytime soon. Meanwhile, the satellite companies themselves had up and down years. At one point it looked like AT&T could acquire Dish, and there was speculation how AT&T's early break with DirecTV would affect that company. But by the end of the year, the speculation had flipped completely. At the time AT&T chose DirecTV for the long run, that deal gave DirecTV partnership with the three former Bell companies, and we suggested Dish had no "major" telco partners at all. Analyst Bernie Arnason argued that wasn't the case, since Dish actually has partnership with the next four largest telcos after the big three.

So, maybe the old DirecTV/Dish satellite war is alive and well, and if telco TV efforts take a hit from the down economy, the importance of satellite TV partnerships may yet increase.

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