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Want free satellite TV? Live in DISH
EchoStar will give away free service to the first town that agrees to change its name to DISH.
August 23, 2005: 3:29 PM EDT
By Paul R. La Monica, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Satellite television company EchoStar is willing to give away its service to all residents of a lucky town for 10 years. But there's a catch.

The town must legally (and permanently) rename itself DISH, in honor of the name of EchoStar's service.

"As part of DISH Network's re-branding efforts and new advertising campaign trumpeting 'Better TV for All,' we invite a city or town to join us by re-branding itself DISH," EchoStar President Michael Neuman said in a statement Tuesday.

The company said that it will accept submissions up until November 1 and that every household within the winning municipality will receive a free DISH Network satellite TV receiver, free standard installation and programming for 10 years.

As of mid-day Tuesday, EchoStar had not received any offers according to Mark Cicero, a spokesman for the company.

Even though there are no takers yet, there are a couple of places where a name change might not be too much of a stretch. The town of Dishman, Washington, would be a natural fit, and Cicero quipped that all it would need to do is drop three letters from its name.

Nor would it be such a huge departure for Platter, Oklahoma, to become Dish, and then there's Satellite Beach, Florida.

But Cicero said the company was hopeful it would get proposals, adding it was willing to work with any interested town or city, regardless of how big it is.

"We're serious. This isn't a joke," Cicero said. "If an entire town changed its name to DISH, you can't buy that publicity."

He agreed that it would be a concern if a major metropolitan area decided to take the company up on its offer since it would cost EchoStar a lot more money but added it was highly unlikely that a big city would agree to change its name. EchoStar estimated that it would cost approximately $4 million to set up equipment and provide free programming for a town with 1,000 households.

If a town decides to become DISH or Dish -- Cicero said the company would prefer an all-capital spelling but this could be negotiated -- it wouldn't be the first time one has agreed to change its name at the behest of a corporate sponsor.

In 2000, the small town of Halfway, Oregon, agreed to change its name to in exchange for $60,000 and 20 computers from the online retail company, which is now a subsidiary of eBay (Research).

Rob Sanderson, an analyst with American Technology Research, said that the recent promotions were another example of the types of marketing campaigns that EchoStar has been known for over the years. The company ran some commercials in 2003 with the slogan, "Stop feeding the cable pig", which mocked the price hikes by some cable companies. "They have been very clever and creative over the years. This is in line for EchoStar," he said.

Ultimately, Sanderson doubts that any town will agree to change its name to DISH. But he thinks it's a good way for EchoStar to easily drum up some brand-name recognition.

Separately Tuesday, EchoStar announced another contest as part of its new promotional campaign to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

It is giving anyone who goes to the company's Web site and enters its "Reach for the Stars" contest the chance to have their name written on the next EchoStar satellite to be launched into space. This contest will last until September 30.

The randomly chosen winner will also win $1000 and a trip for two to California for a rocket signing ceremony. The satellite, EchoStar's tenth, will be launched sometime next year.

EchoStar (Research), with about 11 million customers, is locked in a fierce battle with larger rival DirecTV (Research), which has about 14.5 million customers, as well as cable companies.

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