Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the DISH on Ma Bell TV

Echostar (owner of the DBS called DISH and buyer of Slingmedia) is said to be in on-again, off-again talks with Ma Bell who might want to buy DISH Network. Echostar took a hit in the 3rd quarter, that it said pertained to the credit crunch. (When money gets tight, people tighten the belt.) But could be due to Telco TV.

Small MSO's and rural MSO's (not always the same thing) get hit hardest by DBS penetration. It's expensive to upgrade from an analog head-end to a 100+ channel digital head-end -- and the network to provide it to the households. (Millions). And the $400 set-top box only adds to the CAPEX.

Does it make sense for Ma Bell to buy DISH? Not really. Their FTTN approach to triple and quad play bundles seems like the logical approach to fight cable. However, Ma Bell will be spending billions to hit only a portion of its client base. This is a solution to the rest of the country including VZ territiory.

My thoughts are that Ma Bell is running scared. The Aloha and Dobson buys. Ingenio (pay per click). USinternetworking and Interwise. It looks like they are buying growth already. And this looks like the old AT&T! Back in the 1990s, ATT bought NCR, spun off Lucent, bought McCaw and Alaska Communications Systems. Then in 1997, ATT bought TCI and Media One to become the largest cable TV provider in the US. And then it unravelled. Heavy with debt and falling LD rates, ATT started spinning off - Wireless in an IPO and cable as ATT Broadband and Liberty Media. By then it was upside down. Tell me this doesn't look similar? Plus, the company keeps saying it is a Wireless company. Fine. Then Focus on that!

Think of companies that do things well. Bose. Starbucks. Southwest. Boeing. What do they all have in common? They have a Vision that comprises the One Thing that they will Excel at, to exclude all else. Bose makes beautiful music, but audio only, no video. Starbucks used to be about The Coffee Experience. Southwest's BHAG is Fly People Cheap. Boeing focuses on building the grandest planes in the air.

That's how companies succeed. Have a Vision, BHAG, Grand Plan. And keep walking towards it - a step at a time. Not dancing or doing the jig or taking detours, but walking towards the goal (walking the Walk so to speak). That's Focus. That's how Execution works. And that's my lesson for today. Buy the book for the rest of the lessons.

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