ECHOSTAR'S NEW ORBIT

A RENEGADE SATELLITE-TV BROADCASTER LINKS WITH RUPERT MURDOCH TO CHALLENGE THE CABLE GIANTS

Charlie Ergen, 44, CEO of Echostar Communications Corporation, likes to play for an inside straight. Last week Ergen, who got into satellite TV in 1980 on the advice of a poker buddy, drew the perfect card. His cash-short EchoStar--by now a $250 million public company reaching 430,000 homes through pizza-size dishes--inked a deal with Rupert Murdoch's American Sky Broadcasting. ASkyB will pay $1 billion in cash and assets for 50% of EchoStar, creating a new direct-broadcast-satellite alliance called SKY that will be aimed at 75% of American homes.

With the capacity to offer 500 channels of crystal-clear digital TV, Internet services...

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