10-K 1 dish-20151231x10k.htm 10-K dish_Current folio_10K Taxonomy2015_newsections

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C.  20549

 

Form 10-K

 

(Mark One)

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2015

 

OR

 

 

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

FOR THE TRANSITION PERIOD FROM                 TO                .

 

Commission file number: 0-26176

 

DISH Network Corporation

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Nevada

 

88-0336997

(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

 

 

9601 South Meridian Boulevard

 

 

Englewood, Colorado

 

80112

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip Code)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (303) 723-1000

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Class A common stock, $0.01 par value

 

The Nasdaq Stock Market L.L.C.

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.  Yes  No

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.  Yes  No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).  Yes    No 

 

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. 

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

Accelerated filer

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

Smaller reporting

 

 

 

 

(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)

 

company

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).  Yes No

 

As of June 30, 2015, the aggregate market value of Class A common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was $14.7 billion based upon the closing price of the Class A common stock as reported on the Nasdaq Global Select Market as of the close of business on the last trading day of the month.

 

As of February 12, 2016, the registrant’s outstanding common stock consisted of 225,765,024 shares of Class A common stock and 238,435,208 shares of Class B common stock, each $0.01 par value.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

The following documents are incorporated into this Form 10-K by reference:

 

Portions of the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement to be filed in connection with its 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference in Part III.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

PART I

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

i 

Item 1. 

Business

Item 1A. 

Risk Factors

22 

Item 1B. 

Unresolved Staff Comments

52 

Item 2. 

Properties

53 

Item 3. 

Legal Proceedings

53 

Item 4. 

Mine Safety Disclosures

53 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

Item 5. 

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

54 

Item 6. 

Selected Financial Data

55 

Item 7. 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

57 

Item 7A. 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

83 

Item 8. 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

85 

Item 9. 

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

85 

Item 9A. 

Controls and Procedures

85 

Item 9B. 

Other Information

86 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

Item 10. 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

87 

Item 11. 

Executive Compensation

87 

Item 12. 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

87 

Item 13. 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

87 

Item 14. 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

87 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

Item 15. 

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

88 

 

 

 

 

Signatures

96 

 

Index to Consolidated Financial Statements

F-1

 

 

 

 

 


 

DISCLOSURE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

 

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including, in particular, statements about our plans, objectives and strategies, growth opportunities in our industries and businesses, our expectations regarding future results, financial condition, liquidity and capital requirements, our estimates regarding the impact of regulatory developments and legal proceedings, and other trends and projections.  Forward-looking statements are not historical facts and may be identified by words such as “future,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “plan,” “goal,” “seek,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “predict,” “will,” “would,” “could,” “can,” “may,” and similar terms.  These forward-looking statements are based on information available to us as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and represent management’s current views and assumptions.  Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, events or results and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may be beyond our control.  Accordingly, actual performance, events or results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements due to a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

 

Competition and Economic Risks

 

·

We face intense and increasing competition from satellite television providers, cable companies and telecommunications companies, especially as the pay-TV industry has matured and bundled offers have become more prevalent, which may require us to further increase subscriber acquisition and retention spending or accept lower subscriber activations and higher subscriber churn.

 

·

Changing consumer behavior and competition from digital media companies that provide or facilitate the delivery of video content via the Internet may reduce our gross new subscriber activations and may cause our subscribers to purchase fewer services from us or to cancel our services altogether, resulting in less revenue to us.

 

·

Economic weakness and uncertainty may adversely affect our ability to grow or maintain our business.

 

·

Our competitors may be able to leverage their relationships with programmers to reduce their programming costs and offer exclusive content that will place them at a competitive advantage to us.

 

·

Our over-the-top (“OTT”) Sling TV Internet-based services face certain risks, including, among others, significant competition.

 

·

We face increasing competition from other distributors of unique programming services such as foreign language and sports programming that may limit our ability to maintain subscribers that desire these unique programming services.

 

Operational and Service Delivery Risks

 

·

If we do not continue improving our operational performance and customer satisfaction, our gross new subscriber activations may decrease and our subscriber churn may increase.

 

·

If our gross new subscriber activations decrease, or if our subscriber churn, subscriber acquisition costs or retention costs increase, our financial performance will be adversely affected.

 

·

Programming expenses are increasing and could adversely affect our future financial condition and results of operations.

 

·

We depend on others to provide the programming that we offer to our subscribers and, if we fail to obtain or lose access to this programming, our gross new subscriber activations may decline and our subscriber churn may increase.

 

·

We may not be able to obtain necessary retransmission consent agreements at acceptable rates, or at all, from local network stations.

i


 

 

·

We may be required to make substantial additional investments to maintain competitive programming offerings.

 

·

Any failure or inadequacy of our information technology infrastructure and communications systems, including without limitation those caused by cyber-attacks or other malicious activities, could disrupt or harm our business.

 

·

We currently depend on EchoStar Corporation and its subsidiaries, or EchoStar, to design, develop and manufacture substantially all of our new DISH branded pay-TV set-top boxes and certain related components, to provide the vast majority of our transponder capacity, to provide digital broadcast operations and other services to us, and to provide streaming delivery technology and infrastructure for our Sling TV services.  Our business would be adversely affected if EchoStar ceases to provide these products and services to us and we are unable to obtain suitable replacement products and services from third parties.

 

·

Technology in the pay-TV industry changes rapidly, and our success may depend in part on our timely introduction and implementation of, and effective investment in, new competitive products and services and more advanced equipment, and our failure to do so could cause our products and services to become obsolete and could negatively impact our business.

 

·

We rely on a single vendor or a limited number of vendors to provide certain key products or services to us such as information technology support, billing systems, and security access devices, and the inability of these key vendors to meet our needs could have a material adverse effect on our business.

 

·

Our primary supplier of new set-top boxes, EchoStar, relies on a few suppliers and in some cases a single supplier, for many components of our new set-top boxes, and any reduction or interruption in supplies or significant increase in the price of supplies could have a negative impact on our business.

 

·

Our programming signals are subject to theft, and we are vulnerable to other forms of fraud that could require us to make significant expenditures to remedy.

 

·

We depend on independent third parties to solicit orders for our services that represent a significant percentage of our total gross new subscriber activations.

 

·

We have limited satellite capacity and failures or reduced capacity could adversely affect our DISH branded pay-TV business.

 

·

Our owned and leased satellites are subject to construction, launch, operational and environmental risks that could limit our ability to utilize these satellites.

 

·

We generally do not carry commercial launch or in-orbit insurance on any of the satellites that we use, other than certain satellites leased from third parties, and could face significant impairment charges if any of our owned satellites fail.

 

·

We may have potential conflicts of interest with EchoStar due to our common ownership and management.

 

·

We rely on key personnel and the loss of their services may negatively affect our business.

 

Acquisition and Capital Structure Risks

 

·

We have made substantial investments to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and other related assets.  In addition, we have made substantial non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities related to AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses.

 

·

We face certain risks related to our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

ii


 

 

·

To the extent that we commercialize our wireless spectrum licenses, we will face certain risks entering and competing in the wireless services industry and operating a wireless services business.

 

·

We may pursue acquisitions and other strategic transactions to complement or expand our business that may not be successful, and we may lose up to the entire value of our investment in these acquisitions and transactions.

 

·

We may need additional capital, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all, to continue investing in our business and to finance acquisitions and other strategic transactions.

 

·

From time to time a portion of our investment portfolio may be invested in securities that have limited liquidity and may not be immediately accessible to support our financing needs, including investments in public companies that are highly speculative and have experienced and continue to experience volatility.

 

·

We have substantial debt outstanding and may incur additional debt.

 

·

It may be difficult for a third party to acquire us, even if doing so may be beneficial to our shareholders, because of our ownership structure.

 

·

We are controlled by one principal stockholder who is also our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

 

Legal and Regulatory Risks

 

·

A ruling in the Do Not Call litigation requiring us to pay substantial civil penalties and/or damages and/or enjoining us, whether acting directly or indirectly through authorized telemarketers or independent third-party retailers, from certain activities could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flow.

 

·

Our business depends on certain intellectual property rights and on not infringing the intellectual property rights of others.

 

·

We are party to various lawsuits which, if adversely decided, could have a significant adverse impact on our business, particularly lawsuits regarding intellectual property.

 

·

Our ability to distribute video content via the Internet, including our Sling TV services, involves regulatory risk.

 

·

Changes in the Cable Act of 1992 (“Cable Act”), and/or the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) that implement the Cable Act, may limit our ability to access programming from cable-affiliated programmers at nondiscriminatory rates.

 

·

The injunction against our retransmission of distant networks, which is currently waived, may be reinstated.

 

·

We are subject to significant regulatory oversight, and changes in applicable regulatory requirements, including any adoption or modification of laws or regulations relating to the Internet, could adversely affect our business.

 

·

Our business depends on FCC licenses that can expire or be revoked or modified and applications for FCC licenses that may not be granted.

 

·

We are subject to digital high-definition (“HD”) “carry-one, carry-all” requirements that cause capacity constraints.

 

·

Our business, investor confidence in our financial results and stock price may be adversely affected if our internal controls are not effective.

 

·

We may face other risks described from time to time in periodic and current reports we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC.

iii


 

 

Other factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to, those discussed under the caption “Risk Factors” in Part I, Item 1A in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, those discussed in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” herein and those discussed in other documents we file with the SEC.  All cautionary statements made or referred to herein should be read as being applicable to all forward-looking statements wherever they appear.  Investors should consider the risks and uncertainties described or referred to herein and should not place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements.  The forward-looking statements speak only as of the date made, and we expressly disclaim any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

 

Unless otherwise required by the context, in this report, the words “DISH Network,” the “Company,” “we,” “our” and “us” refer to DISH Network Corporation and its subsidiaries, “EchoStar” refers to EchoStar Corporation and its subsidiaries, and “DISH DBS” refers to DISH DBS Corporation and its subsidiaries, a wholly-owned, indirect subsidiary of DISH Network.

 

 

iv


 

PART I

 

Item 1.BUSINESS

 

OVERVIEW

 

DISH Network Corporation was organized in 1995 as a corporation under the laws of the State of Nevada.  We started offering the DISH® branded pay-TV service in March 1996 and are the nation’s third largest pay-TV provider.  Our common stock is publicly traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “DISH.”  Our principal executive offices are located at 9601 South Meridian Boulevard, Englewood, Colorado 80112 and our telephone number is (303) 723-1000.

 

DISH Network Corporation is a holding company.  Its subsidiaries (which together with DISH Network Corporation are referred to as “DISH Network,” the “Company,” “we,” “us” and/or “our,” unless otherwise required by the context) operate two primary business segments.

 

DISH

 

We offer pay-TV services under the DISH®  brand and the Sling® brand (collectively “Pay-TV” services).  The DISH branded pay-TV service consists of, among other things, Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) licenses authorizing us to use direct broadcast satellite (“DBS”) and Fixed Satellite Service (“FSS”) spectrum, our owned and leased satellites, receiver systems, third-party broadcast operations, customer service facilities, a leased fiber optic network, in-home service and call center operations, and certain other assets utilized in our operations.  The Sling branded pay-TV services consist of, among other things, live, linear streaming over-the-top (“OTT”) Internet-based domestic, international and Latino video programming services (“Sling TV”).  Prior to 2015, we launched our Sling International video programming service (formerly known as DishWorld), which historically represented a small percentage of our Pay-TV subscribers.  During 2015, we launched our Sling domestic and Sling Latino services.  All Sling TV subscribers are included in our Pay-TV subscriber count.  As of December 31, 2015, we had 13.897 million Pay-TV subscribers in the United States. 

 

In addition, we market broadband services under the dishNET™ brand, which had 0.623 million subscribers in the United States as of December 31, 2015.  Our satellite broadband service utilizes advanced technology and high-powered satellites launched by Hughes Communications, Inc. (“Hughes”) and ViaSat, Inc. (“ViaSat”) to provide broadband coverage nationwide.  This service primarily targets rural residents that are underserved, or unserved, by wireline broadband.  In addition to the dishNET branded satellite broadband service, we also offer wireline voice and broadband services under the dishNET brand as a competitive local exchange carrier to consumers living in a 14-state region in the western United States.  We primarily bundle our dishNET branded services with our DISH branded pay-TV service.

 

Wireless

 

DISH Network Spectrum

 

We have invested over $5.0 billion since 2008 to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets.  These wireless spectrum licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  As we consider our options for the commercialization of our wireless spectrum, we may incur significant additional expenses and may have to make significant investments related to, among other things, research and development, wireless testing and wireless network infrastructure, as well as the acquisition of additional wireless spectrum.  For example, on February 10, 2016, we filed an application with the FCC to potentially participate as a bidder in the upcoming broadcast television spectrum incentive auction (“Auction 1000”).  Auction 1000 is scheduled to begin on March 29, 2016.  The FCC determined that bidding in Auction 1000 will be “anonymous,” which means that prior to and during the course of the auction, the FCC will not make public any information about a specific applicant’s upfront deposits or its bids.  In addition, FCC rules restrict information that bidders may disclose about their participation in Auction 1000.  See Note 15 “Commitments and Contingencies — Wireless — DISH Network Spectrum” in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

1


 

 

DISH Network Non-Controlling Investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities Related to AWS-3 Wireless Spectrum Licenses

 

Through our wholly-owned subsidiaries American AWS-3 Wireless II L.L.C. (“American II”) and American AWS-3 Wireless III L.L.C. (“American III”), we have made over $10.0 billion in certain non-controlling investments in Northstar Spectrum, LLC (“Northstar Spectrum”), the parent company of Northstar Wireless, LLC (“Northstar Wireless,” and collectively with Northstar Spectrum, the “Northstar Entities”), and in SNR Wireless HoldCo, LLC (“SNR HoldCo”), the parent company of SNR Wireless LicenseCo, LLC (“SNR Wireless,” and collectively with SNR HoldCo, the “SNR Entities”), respectively.  On October 27, 2015, the FCC granted certain AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses (the “AWS-3 Licenses”) to Northstar Wireless and to SNR Wireless, respectively, which are recorded in “FCC authorizations” on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.  Under the applicable accounting guidance in Accounting Standards Codification 810, Consolidation (“ASC 810”), Northstar Spectrum and SNR HoldCo are considered variable interest entities and, based on the characteristics of the structure of these entities and in accordance with the applicable accounting guidance, we have consolidated these entities into our financial statements beginning in the fourth quarter 2014.  See Note 2 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

The AWS-3 Licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  We may need to make significant additional loans to the Northstar Entities and to the SNR Entities, or they may need to partner with others, so that the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities may commercialize, build-out and integrate these AWS-3 Licenses, and comply with regulations applicable to such AWS-3 Licenses.  Depending upon the nature and scope of such commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, and regulatory compliance, any such loans or partnerships could vary significantly.  There can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain a profitable return on our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities.

 

See Note 15 “Commitments and Contingencies — Wireless — DISH Network Non-Controlling Investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities Related to AWS-3 Wireless Spectrum Licenses” in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

Business Strategy

 

Our business strategy is to be the best provider of video services in the United States by providing products with the best technology, outstanding customer service, and great value.  We promote DISH branded programming packages as providing our subscribers with a better “price-to-value” relationship than those available from other subscription television service providers.  We believe that there continues to be unsatisfied demand for high-quality, reasonably priced subscription television services.

 

·

Products with the Best Technology.  We offer a wide selection of local and national high-definition (“HD”) programming and are a technology leader in our industry, offering award-winning DVRs (including our Hopper®  whole-home HD DVR), multiple tuner receivers, 1080p video on demand, and external hard drives.  In addition, during 2015, we launched our Sling domestic and Sling Latino services.

 

·

Outstanding Customer Service.  We strive to provide outstanding customer service by improving the quality of the initial installation of subscriber equipment, improving the reliability of our equipment, better educating our customers about our products and services, and resolving customer problems promptly and effectively when they arise.

 

·

Great Value.  We have historically been viewed as the low-cost provider in the pay-TV industry in the U.S. because we seek to offer the lowest everyday prices available to consumers after introductory promotions expire.

 

2


 

Products and Services

 

Pay-TV Programming.  We offer a wide selection of video services under the DISH brand, with access to hundreds of channels depending on the level of subscription.  Our standard programming packages generally include programming provided by national broadcast networks, local broadcast networks and national and regional cable networks.  We also offer programming packages that include regional and specialty sports channels, premium movie channels and Latino and international programming.  Our Latino and international programming packages allow subscribers to choose from over 250 channels in 28 languages.

 

In addition, we offer our DISH branded pay-TV subscribers streaming access through DISH On Demand®  to more than 10,000 movies and TV shows via their TV or Internet-connected tablets, smartphones and computers.

 

Our DISH branded pay-TV subscribers also have the ability to use dishanywhere.com and our mobile applications for smartphones and tablets to view authorized content, search program listings and remotely control certain features of their DVRs.  Dishanywhere.com and our mobile applications provide access to thousands of movies and television shows.

 

Sling branded pay-TV services.  We market our Sling TV services primarily to consumers who do not subscribe to traditional satellite and cable pay-TV services.  Our Sling TV services require an Internet connection and are available on certain streaming-capable devices including TVs, tablets, computers, game consoles and smart phones.  Prior to 2015, we launched our Sling International video programming service (formerly known as DishWorld), which historically represented a small percentage of our Pay-TV subscribers.  Sling International now offers over 200 channels in 18 languages.  In February 2015, we launched our Sling domestic service.  The Sling domestic core package consists of over 20 channels offered for a $20 monthly subscription.  In addition to the core programming package, Sling domestic offers additional tiers of programming, including sports, kids, movies, world news, lifestyle and spanish language and additional premium content such as HBO, each available for an additional monthly fee.  Sling TV programming is offered live and on-demand and can be replayed as programming rights permit.  On June 4, 2015, we also launched our Sling Latino service.  All Sling TV subscribers are included in our Pay-TV subscriber count. 

 

Technology.    Our DISH branded pay-TV subscribers receive programming via equipment that includes a small satellite dish, digital set-top receivers, and remote controls.  Our Hopper and Joey® whole-home DVR promotes a suite of integrated features and functionality designed to maximize the convenience and ease of watching TV anytime and anywhere.  It also has several innovative features that a consumer can use, at his or her option, to watch and record television programming, through their televisions, Internet-connected tablets, smartphones and computers.  During the first quarter 2016, we made our next generation Hopper, the Hopper 3, available to customers nationwide.  Among other things, the Hopper 3 features 16 tuners, delivers an enhanced 4K Ultra HD experience, and supports up to seven TVs simultaneously.

 

We rely on EchoStar Corporation (“EchoStar”) to design and manufacture substantially all of our new receivers and certain related components.  See “Item 1A — Risk Factors.”

 

Broadband.  In addition to our wide selection of pay-TV programming and award-winning technology, we market a satellite broadband service under the dishNET brand.  This service leverages advanced technology and high-powered satellites launched by Hughes and ViaSat to provide broadband coverage nationwide.  This service primarily targets rural residents that are underserved, or unserved, by wireline broadband, and provides download speeds of up to 15 megabits of data per second (“Mbps”).  We lease the customer premise equipment to subscribers and generally pay Hughes and ViaSat a wholesale rate per subscriber on a monthly basis.  Currently, we generally utilize our existing DISH distribution channels, including our DISH direct sales channels, under similar incentive arrangements as our DISH branded pay-TV business to acquire new broadband subscribers.

 

In addition to the dishNET branded satellite broadband service, we also offer wireline voice and broadband services under the dishNET brand as a competitive local exchange carrier to consumers living in a 14-state region (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming).  Our dishNET branded wireline broadband service provides download speeds of up to 40 Mbps.

3


 

 

We primarily bundle our dishNET branded services with our DISH branded pay-TV service, to offer customers a single bill, payment and customer service option, which includes a discount for bundled services.  In addition, we market and sell our dishNET branded services on a stand-alone basis.

 

New Business Opportunities

 

From time to time we evaluate opportunities for strategic investments or acquisitions that may complement our current services and products, enhance our technical capabilities, improve or sustain our competitive position, or otherwise offer growth opportunities.

 

Content Delivery

 

Digital Broadcast Operations Centers.  The principal digital broadcast operations facilities that we use are EchoStar’s facilities located in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Gilbert, Arizona.  We also use seven regional digital broadcast operations facilities owned and operated by EchoStar that allow us to maximize the use of the spot beam capabilities of certain satellites.  Programming content is delivered to these facilities by fiber or satellite and processed, compressed, encrypted and then uplinked to satellites for delivery to consumers.  EchoStar provides certain broadcast services to us, including teleport services such as transmission and downlinking, channel origination services, and channel management services pursuant to a broadcast agreement that expires on December 31, 2016.  See Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on our Related Party Transactions with EchoStar.

 

Satellites.  Our DISH branded pay-TV programming is primarily delivered to customers using satellites that operate in the “Ku” band portion of the microwave radio spectrum.  The Ku-band is divided into two spectrum segments.  The portion of the Ku-band that allows the use of higher power satellites (12.2 to 12.7 GHz over the United States) is known as the Broadcast Satellite Service band, which is also referred to as the DBS band.  The portion of the Ku-band that utilizes lower power satellites (11.7 to 12.2 GHz over the United States) is known as the FSS band.

 

Most of our DISH branded pay-TV programming is currently delivered using DBS satellites.  To accommodate more bandwidth-intensive HD programming and other needs, we continue to explore opportunities to expand our satellite capacity through the acquisition of additional spectrum, the launching of more technologically advanced satellites, and the more efficient use of existing spectrum via, among other things, better compression technologies.

 

We own or lease capacity on 12 satellites in geostationary orbit approximately 22,300 miles above the equator.  For further information concerning these satellites and satellite anomalies, please see the table and discussion under “Satellites” below.

 

Conditional Access SystemOur conditional access system secures our programming content using encryption so that only authorized customers can access our programming.  We use microchips embedded in credit card-sized access cards, called “smart cards,” or security chips in our receiver systems to control access to authorized programming content (“Security Access Devices”).

 

Our signal encryption has been compromised in the past and may be compromised in the future even though we continue to respond with significant investment in security measures, such as Security Access Device replacement programs and updates in security software, that are intended to make signal theft more difficult.  It has been our prior experience that security measures may only be effective for short periods of time or not at all and that we remain susceptible to additional signal theft.  We expect that future replacements of our Security Access Devices will be necessary to keep our system secure.  We cannot ensure that we will be successful in reducing or controlling theft of our programming content and we may incur additional costs in the future if our system’s security is compromised.

 

Internet Connection.  Our Sling TV services require an Internet connection and are available through certain streaming-capable devices. 

 

4


 

Distribution Channels

 

While we offer receiver systems and programming through direct sales channels, a significant percentage of our gross new subscriber activations are generated through independent third parties such as small satellite retailers, direct marketing groups, local and regional consumer electronics stores, nationwide retailers, and telecommunications companies.  In general, we pay these independent third parties a mix of upfront and monthly incentives to solicit orders for our services and provide customer service.  In addition, we partner with certain telecommunications companies to bundle DISH branded programming with broadband and/or voice services on a single bill.

 

Competition

 

As of December 31, 2015, we had 13.897 million Pay-TV subscribers, representing approximately 14% of pay-TV subscribers in the United States, and 0.623 million broadband subscribers.  We face substantial competition from established pay-TV providers and broadband service providers and increasing competition from companies providing/facilitating the delivery of video content via the Internet to computers, televisions, and mobile devices.  As of September 30, 2015, roughly 100 million U.S. households subscribe to a pay-TV service.

 

·

Other Direct Broadcast Satellite Operators.  We compete directly with DirecTV, the largest satellite TV provider in the U.S., which was acquired by AT&T Inc. (“AT&T”) in July 2015 and had 19.6 million subscribers as of September 30, 2015, representing approximately 20% of pay-TV subscribers.  As a result of this acquisition, DirecTV, among other things, has increased access to capital, access to AT&T’s nationwide platform for wireless mobile video, and the ability to more seamlessly bundle its video services with AT&T’s broadband Internet access and wireless services.  The combined company also may be able to, among other things, pressure third-party content owners and programmers to withhold online rights from us; utilize its increased leverage over third-party content owners and programmers to reduce the price it pays for programming at the expense of other multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”), including us; thwart our entry into the wireless market, by, among other things, refusing to enter into data roaming agreements with us; underutilize key orbital spectrum resources that could be more efficiently used by us; foreclose or degrade our online video offerings at various points in the broadband pipe; and impose data caps on consumers who access our online video offerings.

 

·

Cable Television Companies.  We encounter substantial competition in the pay-TV industry from numerous cable television companies that operate via franchise licenses across the U.S.  As of September 30, 2015, cable television companies have more than 53.0 million subscribers, representing approximately 54% of pay-TV subscribers.  Cable companies are typically able to bundle their video services with broadband Internet access and voice services and many have significant investments in companies that provide programming content.  During May 2015, Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter”) announced its pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. (“Time Warner Cable”) and Bright House Networks (collectively “New Charter”), which would create the second largest cable television provider and third largest MPVD in the U.S.  This acquisition is currently undergoing regulatory review and has not been completed.  The proposed transaction, if ultimately completed, will create a duopoly, resulting in two broadband providers, New Charter and Comcast Corporation (“Comcast”), controlling about 90% of the nation’s high-speed broadband homes between them.  In addition, the impact of New Charter would cause a significant proportion of the combined company’s high-speed broadband subscribers to lack access to alternative high-speed broadband options.  Further, if the proposed transaction ultimately is completed, New Charter would be able to, among other things, foreclose or degrade our online video offerings at various points in the broadband pipe; impose data caps on consumers who access our online video offerings; and pressure third-party content owners and programmers to withhold online rights from us and raise other MVPDs’ third-party programming costs, including us.

 

5


 

·

Telecommunications Companies.  Large telecommunications companies have upgraded older copper wire lines with fiber optic lines in certain markets.  These fiber optic lines provide high capacity bandwidth, enabling telecommunications companies to offer video content that can be bundled with their broadband Internet access and wireless services.  In particular, AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc. (“Verizon”) have built fiber-optic based networks to provide video services in substantial portions of their service areas.  As of September 30, 2015, AT&T and Verizon had approximately 5.9 million U-verse and 5.8 million FiOS TV subscribers, respectively.  These telecommunications companies represent approximately 12% of pay-TV subscribers.

 

·

Internet Delivered Video.  We face competition from content providers and other companies including, among others, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, Google and Verizon, who distribute video directly to consumers over the InternetIn addition, programming offered over the Internet has become more prevalent and consumers are spending an increasing amount of time accessing video content via the Internet on their mobile devices.  Significant changes in consumer behavior with regard to the means by which consumers obtain video entertainment and information in response to digital media competition could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition or otherwise disrupt our business.  In particular, consumers have shown increased interest in viewing certain video programming in any place, at any time and/or on any broadband-connected device they choose.

 

·

Wireless Mobile Video.  We may also face increasing competition from wireless telecommunications providers who offer mobile video offerings.  These mobile video offerings will likely become more prevalent in the marketplace as wireless telecommunications providers expand the fourth generation of wireless communications.

 

·

Small and Rural Telephone Companies and Google Fiber.  Other telephone companies are also finding ways to deliver video programming services over their wireline facilities or in a bundle with other MVPD providers.  For example, DirecTV has agreements with CenturyLink, Exede, Cincinnati Bell, HughesNet, Windstream, Verizon and Mediacom to bundle their individual DSL or satellite broadband and telephony services with DirecTV’s video service.  Google has also deployed its own fiber network in the Kansas City metro area, Provo, Utah as well as Austin, Texas, with speeds up to one gigabit.  Google has announced plans to deploy fiber networks in additional metro areas across the country.

 

Acquisition of New Subscribers

 

We incur significant upfront costs to acquire subscribers, including advertising, retailer incentives, equipment, installation services and new customer promotions.  Certain customer promotions to acquire new subscribers result in less programming revenue to us over the promotional period.  While we attempt to recoup these upfront costs over the lives of their subscriptions, there can be no assurance that we will be successful in achieving that objective.  With respect to our DISH branded pay-TV service, we employ business rules such as minimum credit requirements for prospective customers and contractual commitments.  We strive to provide outstanding customer service to increase the likelihood of customers keeping their pay-TV service over longer periods of time.  Our subscriber acquisition costs may vary significantly from period to period.

 

Advertising.  We use print, radio, television and Internet media, on a local and national basis to motivate potential subscribers to contact DISH and Sling, visit our websites or contact independent third-party retailers.

 

Retailer Incentives.  In general, we pay independent retailers an upfront incentive for each new DISH branded pay-TV subscriber they bring to DISH that results in the activation of qualified programming and generally pay independent retailers small monthly incentives for up to 60 months; provided, among other things:  (i) the retailer continuously markets, promotes and solicits orders for DISH products and services; (ii) the retailer continuously provides customer service to our DISH branded pay-TV subscribers; and (iii) the customer continuously subscribes to qualified programming.

 

6


 

Equipment.  We incur significant upfront costs to provide our new DISH branded pay-TV subscribers with in-home equipment, including advanced HD and DVR receivers, which most of our new DISH branded pay-TV subscribers lease from us.  While we seek to recoup these upfront equipment costs mostly through monthly fees, there can be no assurance that we will be successful in achieving that objective.  In addition, upon deactivation of a subscriber we may refurbish and redeploy their equipment which lowers future upfront costs.  However, our ability to capitalize on these cost savings may be limited as technological advances and consumer demand for new features may render the returned equipment obsolete.

 

Installation Services.  We incur significant upfront costs to install satellite dishes and receivers in the homes of our new DISH branded pay-TV subscribers.

 

New Customer Promotions.  We often offer programming at no additional charge and/or promotional pricing during introductory periods for new subscribers.  While such promotional activities have an economic cost and reduce our subscriber-related revenue, they are not included in our definitions of subscriber acquisition costs or the Pay-TV SAC metric.

 

Customer Retention

 

We incur significant costs to retain our existing DISH branded pay-TV customers, mostly by upgrading their equipment to HD and DVR receivers and by providing retention credits.  As with our subscriber acquisition costs, our retention upgrade spending includes the cost of equipment and installation services.  In certain circumstances, we also offer programming at no additional charge and/or promotional pricing for limited periods for existing customers in exchange for a contractual commitment to receive service for a minimum term.  A component of our retention efforts includes the re-installation of equipment for customers who move.  Our subscriber retention costs may vary significantly from period to period.

 

Customer Service

 

Customer Service Centers.  We use both internally-operated and outsourced customer service centers to handle calls from prospective and existing customers.  We strive to answer customer calls promptly and to resolve issues effectively on the first call.  We also use the Internet and other applications to provide our customers with self-service capabilities.

 

Installation and Other In-Home Service Operations.  High-quality installations, upgrades, and in-home repairs are critical to providing DISH branded pay-TV subscribers quality customer service.  Such in-home service is performed by both DISH Network employees and a network of independent contractors and includes, among other things, priority technical support, replacement equipment, cabling and power surge repairs.

 

Subscriber Management.  We presently use, and depend on, software systems for subscriber billing and related functions, including, among others, CSG Systems International, Inc.’s software system used for the DISH branded pay-TV and broadband services.  

 

Relationship with EchoStar

 

On January 1, 2008, we completed the distribution of our technology and set-top box business and certain infrastructure assets (the “Spin-off”) into a separate publicly-traded company, EchoStar.  DISH Network and EchoStar operate as separate publicly-traded companies and, except for the Satellite and Tracking Stock Transaction and Sling TV Holding L.L.C. (“Sling TV Holding”) discussed in Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, neither entity has any ownership interest in the other.  However, a substantial majority of the voting power of the shares of both DISH Network and EchoStar is owned beneficially by Charles W. Ergen, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and by certain trusts established by Mr. Ergen for the benefit of his family.  EchoStar is our primary supplier of digital set-top boxes and digital broadcast operations.  In addition, EchoStar provides the vast majority of our transponder capacity, is a key supplier of related services to us, and provides the streaming delivery technology and infrastructure for our Sling TV services.  Furthermore, Hughes, a subsidiary of EchoStar, provides us with satellite broadband Internet services on a wholesale basis, which we then distribute under our dishNET™ brand.  See “Item 1A. Risk Factors” and Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for more information.

7


 

 

Discontinued Operations

 

On April 26, 2011, we completed the acquisition of most of the assets of Blockbuster, Inc.  As of December 31, 2013, Blockbuster had ceased material operations.  The results of Blockbuster are presented for all periods as discontinued operations in our consolidated financial statements.  On January 14, 2014, we completed the sale of our Blockbuster operations in Mexico.

 

SATELLITES

 

Pay-TV Satellites.  Most of our DISH branded pay-TV programming is currently delivered using DBS satellites.  We continue to explore opportunities to expand our available satellite capacity through the use of other available spectrum.  Increasing our available spectrum is particularly important as more bandwidth intensive HD programming is produced and to address new video and data applications consumers may desire in the future.  We currently utilize satellites in geostationary orbit approximately 22,300 miles above the equator detailed in the table below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estimated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Useful Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Years) / 

 

 

 

 

 

Degree

 

Lease 

 

 

 

Launch

 

Orbital

 

Termination 

 

Satellites

    

Date

    

Location

    

Date

 

Owned:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EchoStar XV

 

July 2010

 

61.5

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Construction:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EchoStar XVIII

 

Second quarter 2016

 

110

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leased from EchoStar (1):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EchoStar VII (2)(3)

 

February 2002

 

119

 

June 2017

 

EchoStar IX

 

August 2003

 

121

 

Month to month

 

EchoStar X (2)(3)

 

February 2006

 

110

 

February 2021

 

EchoStar XI (2)(3)

 

July 2008

 

110

 

September 2021

 

EchoStar XII (3)

 

 July 2003

 

61.5

 

September 2017

 

EchoStar XIV (2)(3)

 

March 2010

 

119

 

February 2023

 

EchoStar XVI (4)

 

November 2012

 

61.5

 

January 2017

 

Nimiq 5

 

September 2009

 

72.7

 

September 2019

 

QuetzSat-1

 

September 2011

 

77

 

November 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leased from Other Third Party:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anik F3

 

April 2007

 

118.7

 

April 2022

 

Ciel II

 

December 2008

 

129

 

January 2019

 

 

(1)

See Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on our Related Party Transactions with EchoStar.

(2)

On February 20, 2014, we entered into the Satellite and Tracking Stock Transaction with EchoStar pursuant to which, among other things, we transferred these satellites to EchoStar and lease back all available capacity on these satellites.  See Note 6 and Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

(3)

We generally have the option to renew each lease on a year-to-year basis through the end of the useful life of the respective satellite.

(4)

We have the option to renew this lease for an additional six-year period. If we exercise our six-year renewal option, we have the option to renew this lease for an additional five years.

 

8


 

Satellites Under Construction

 

EchoStar XVIII.  On September 7, 2012, we entered into a contract with Space Systems/Loral, Inc. (“SS/L”) for the construction of EchoStar XVIII, a DBS satellite with spot beam technology designed for, among other things, HD programming.  During October 2013, we entered into an agreement with ArianeSpace S.A. (“Ariane”) for launch services for this satellite, which is expected to launch during the second quarter 2016.

 

Satellite Anomalies

 

Operation of our DISH branded pay-TV service requires that we have adequate satellite transmission capacity for the programming that we offer.  Moreover, current competitive conditions require that we continue to expand our offering of new programming.  While we generally have had in-orbit satellite capacity sufficient to transmit our existing channels and some backup capacity to recover the transmission of certain critical programming, our backup capacity is limited.

 

In the event of a failure or loss of any of our owned or leased satellites, we may need to acquire or lease additional satellite capacity or relocate one of our other owned or leased satellites and use it as a replacement for the failed or lost satellite.  Such a failure could result in a prolonged loss of critical programming or a significant delay in our plans to expand programming as necessary to remain competitive and thus may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

In the past, certain of our owned and leased satellites have experienced anomalies, some of which have had a significant adverse impact on their remaining useful life and/or commercial operation.  There can be no assurance that future anomalies will not impact the remaining useful life and/or commercial operation of any of the owned and leased satellites in our fleet.  See “Impairment of Long-Lived Assets” in Note 2 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on evaluation of impairment.  There can be no assurance that we can recover critical transmission capacity in the event one or more of our owned or leased in-orbit satellites were to fail.  We generally do not carry commercial launch or in-orbit insurance on any of the owned or leased satellites that we use, other than certain satellites leased from third parties, and therefore, we will bear the risk associated with any uninsured in-orbit satellite failures.  In light of current favorable market conditions, during January 2016, we procured commercial launch and in-orbit insurance (for a period of one year following launch) for the EchoStar XVIII satellite, which is expected to launch during the second quarter 2016.    

 

AWS-4 Satellites.  We own two in-orbit AWS-4 satellites (D1 and T1).  See the table below for further information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Degree

 

Estimated

 

 

 

Launch

 

Orbital

 

 Useful Life

 

Satellites

    

Date

    

Location

    

(Years)

 

Owned:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T1

 

July 2009

 

111.1

 

15

 

D1

 

April 2008

 

92.85

 

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS

 

Our operations, particularly our pay-TV and broadband operations, and our wireless spectrum licenses are subject to significant government regulation and oversight, primarily by the FCC and, to a certain extent, by Congress, other federal agencies and foreign, state and local authorities.  Depending upon the circumstances, noncompliance with legislation or regulations promulgated by these authorities could result in limitations on, or the suspension or revocation of, our licenses or registrations, the termination or loss of contracts or the imposition of contractual damages, civil fines or criminal penalties, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  These governmental authorities could also adopt regulations or take other actions that would adversely affect our business prospects.

 

9


 

Furthermore, the adoption or modification of laws or regulations relating to video programming, satellite services, wireless telecommunications, broadband, the Internet or other areas of our business could limit or otherwise adversely affect the manner in which we currently conduct our business.  If we become subject to new regulations or legislation or new interpretations of existing regulations or legislation that govern Internet network neutrality, for example, we may be required to incur additional expenses or alter our business model.  The manner in which legislation governing Internet network neutrality may be interpreted and enforced cannot be precisely determined, which in turn could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Wireless services and our wireless spectrum licenses are subject to regulation by the FCC and, depending on the jurisdiction, other federal, state and local, as well as international, governmental authorities and regulatory agencies, including, among other things, regulations governing the licensing, construction, operation, sale and interconnection arrangements of wireless telecommunications systems.  In particular, the FCC imposes significant regulation on licensees of wireless spectrum with respect to how radio spectrum is used by licensees, the nature of the services that licensees may offer and how the services may be offered, and resolution of issues of interference between spectrum bands.  The FCC grants wireless licenses for terms of generally ten years that are subject to renewal or revocation.  There can be no assurances that our wireless spectrum licenses will be renewed.  Failure to comply with FCC requirements in a given license area could result in revocation of the license for that license area.  For further information related to our licenses and build-out requirements related to our wireless spectrum licenses see “Item 1A.  Risk Factors.”

 

The following summary of regulatory developments and legislation in the United States is not intended to describe all present and proposed government regulation and legislation affecting the video programming distribution, satellite services, wireless telecommunications and broadband industries.  Government regulations that are currently the subject of judicial or administrative proceedings, legislative hearings or administrative proposals could change these industries to varying degrees.  We cannot predict either the outcome of these proceedings or any potential impact they might have on these industries or on our operations.

 

FCC Regulations Governing our Pay-TV Operations

 

FCC Jurisdiction over our DBS Satellite Operations.  The Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the “Communications Act”), gives the FCC broad authority to regulate the operations of satellite companies.  Specifically, the Communications Act gives the FCC regulatory jurisdiction over the following areas relating to communications satellite operations:

 

·

the assignment of satellite radio frequencies and orbital locations, the licensing of satellites and earth stations, the granting of related authorizations, and evaluation of the fitness of a company to be a licensee;

·

approval for the relocation of satellites to different orbital locations or the replacement of an existing satellite with a new satellite;

·

ensuring compliance with the terms and conditions of such assignments, licenses, authorizations and approvals, including required timetables for construction and operation of satellites;

·

avoiding interference with other radio frequency emitters; and

·

ensuring compliance with other applicable provisions of the Communications Act and FCC rules and regulations.

 

To obtain FCC satellite licenses and authorizations, satellite operators must satisfy strict legal, technical and financial qualification requirements.  Once issued, these licenses and authorizations are subject to a number of conditions including, among other things, satisfaction of ongoing due diligence obligations, construction milestones, and various reporting requirements.  Necessary federal approval of these applications may not be granted, may not be granted in a timely manner, or may be granted subject to conditions which may be cumbersome.

 

10


 

Overview of our DBS Satellites, Authorizations and Contractual Rights for Satellite Capacity.  Our satellites are located in orbital positions, or slots, that are designated by their western longitude.  An orbital position describes both a physical location and an assignment of spectrum in the applicable frequency band.  Each DBS orbital position has 500 MHz of available Ku-band spectrum that is divided into 32 frequency channels.  Several of our satellites also include spot-beam technology that enables us to increase the number of markets where we provide local channels, but reduces the number of video channels that could otherwise be offered across the entire United States.

 

The FCC has licensed us to operate a total of 50 DBS frequency channels at the following orbital locations:

 

·

21 DBS frequency channels at the 119 degree orbital location, capable of providing service to the continental United States (“CONUS”); and

·

29 DBS frequency channels at the 110 degree orbital location, capable of providing service to CONUS.

 

In addition, we currently lease or have entered into agreements to lease capacity on satellites using the following spectrum at the following orbital locations:

 

·

500 MHz of Ku-band FSS spectrum that is divided into 32 frequency channels at the 118.7 degree orbital location, which is a Canadian FSS slot that is capable of providing service to CONUS, Alaska and Hawaii;

·

32 DBS frequency channels at the 129 degree orbital location, which is a Canadian DBS slot that is capable of providing service to most of the United States;

·

32 DBS frequency channels at the 61.5 degree orbital location, capable of providing service to most of the United States;

·

24 DBS frequency channels at the 77 degree orbital location, which is a Mexican DBS slot that is capable of providing service to most of the United States and Mexico; and

·

32 DBS frequency channels at the 72.7 degree orbital location, which is a Canadian DBS slot that is capable of providing service to CONUS.

 

We also have month-to-month FSS capacity available from EchoStar on a satellite located at the 121 degree orbital location and a lease for FSS capacity available from EchoStar on a satellite located at the 103 degree orbital location.

 

In June 2015, the FCC granted us authority to provide service to the United States from a Canadian-licensed satellite using Reverse Band Working DBS frequencies at the 103 degree orbital location.

 

Duration of our DBS Satellite Licenses.  Generally speaking, all of our satellite licenses are subject to expiration unless renewed by the FCC.  The term of each of our DBS licenses is ten years.  Our licenses are currently set to expire at various times.  In addition, at various times we have relied on special temporary authorizations for our operations.  A special temporary authorization is granted for a period of only 180 days or less, subject again to possible renewal by the FCC.  From time to time, we apply for authorizations to use new satellites at our existing orbital locations.  For example, in October 2014, we filed an application with the FCC to launch and operate a new satellite, EchoStar XVIII, at the 110 degree orbital location, which was granted in March 2015.  Generally, our FCC licenses and special temporary authorizations have been renewed, and our applications for new satellites at our existing orbital locations have been approved, by the FCC on a routine basis, but there can be no assurance that the FCC will continue to do so.

 

Opposition and Other Risks to our Licenses.  Several third parties have opposed in the past, and we expect these or other parties to oppose in the future, some of our FCC satellite authorizations and pending and future requests to the FCC for extensions, modifications, waivers and approvals of our licenses.  In addition, we must comply with numerous FCC reporting, filing and other requirements in connection with our satellite authorizations.  Consequently, it is possible the FCC could revoke, terminate, condition or decline to extend or renew certain of our authorizations or licenses.

 

4.5 Degree Spacing Tweener Satellites.  The FCC has proposed to allow so-called “tweener” DBS operations — DBS satellites operating at orbital locations 4.5 degrees (half of the usual nine degrees) away from other DBS satellites.  The FCC granted authorizations to EchoStar and Spectrum Five for tweener satellites at the 86.5 and 114.5 degree orbital locations, respectivelyThese authorizations were subsequently cancelled because the FCC determined that the licensees did not meet certain milestone requirements.  Tweener operations close to our licensed orbital locations could cause harmful interference to our service and constrain our future operations.  The FCC has not completed its rulemaking on the operating and service rules for tweener satellites.

11


 

 

Interference from Other Services Sharing Satellite Spectrum.  The FCC has adopted rules that allow non-geostationary orbit fixed satellite services to operate on a co-primary basis in the same frequency band as DBS and FSS.  The FCC has also authorized the use of multichannel video distribution and data service (“MVDDS”) licenses in the DBS band.  MVDDS licenses were auctioned in 2004.  MVDDS systems are now only beginning to be commercially deployed in a few markets.  We have MVDDS licenses in 82 out of 214 geographical license areas.  Despite regulatory provisions intended to protect DBS and FSS operations from harmful interference, there can be no assurance that operations by other satellites or terrestrial communication services in the DBS and FSS bands will not interfere with our DBS and FSS operations and adversely affect our business.

 

Satellite Competition from Additional Slots and Interference.  DirecTV has obtained FCC authority to provide service to the United States from a Canadian DBS orbital slot, and EchoStar has obtained authority to provide service to the United States from both a Mexican and a Canadian DBS orbital slot.  Further, we have also received authority to do the same from a Canadian DBS orbital slot at 129 degrees and a Canadian FSS orbital slot at 118.7 degrees.  The possibility that the FCC will allow service to the U.S. from additional foreign slots may permit additional competition against us from other satellite providers.  It may also provide a means by which to increase our available satellite capacity in the United States.  In addition, a number of administrations, such as Great Britain and the Netherlands, have requested authority to add orbital locations serving the U.S. close to our licensed slots.  Such operations could cause harmful interference to our satellites and constrain our future operations.

 

Rules Relating to Broadcast Services.  The FCC imposes different rules for “subscription” and “broadcast” services.  We believe that because we offer a subscription programming service, we are not subject to many of the regulatory obligations imposed upon broadcast licensees.  However, we cannot be certain whether the FCC will find in the future that we must comply with regulatory obligations as a broadcast licensee, and certain parties have requested that we be treated as a broadcaster.  If the FCC determines that we are a broadcast licensee, it could require us to comply with all regulatory obligations imposed upon broadcast licensees, which in certain respects are subject to more burdensome regulation than subscription television service providers.

 

Public Interest Requirements.  The FCC imposes certain public interest obligations on our DBS licenses.  These obligations require us to set aside four percent of our channel capacity exclusively for noncommercial programming for which we must charge programmers below-cost rates and for which we may not impose additional charges on subscribers.  The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (“STELA”) required the FCC to decrease this set-aside to 3.5 percent for satellite carriers who provide retransmission of state public affairs networks in 15 states and are otherwise qualified.  The FCC, however, has not yet determined whether we qualify for this decrease in set-aside.  The obligation to provide noncommercial programming may displace programming for which we could earn commercial rates and could adversely affect our financial results.  We cannot be sure that, if the FCC were to review our methodology for processing public interest carriage requests, computing the channel capacity we must set aside or determining the rates that we charge public interest programmers, it would find them in compliance with the public interest requirements.

 

12


 

Separate Security, Plug and PlayThe STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 (“STELAR”) ended the “integration ban” that required cable companies to separate security functionality from the other features of their set-top boxes and that required leased cable set-top boxes to include CableCARDs.  The repeal of the integration ban became effective in December 2015.  Set-top boxes used by DBS providers were not subject to this separate security requirement.  STELAR required the FCC to establish a working group of technical experts to identify and report on downloadable security design options that are not unduly burdensome and that promote competition with respect to the availability of navigation devices.  The working group released a report in August 2015, which declined to offer a consensus recommendation regarding downloadable security design options.  However, we cannot predict whether the FCC will take further action regarding downloadable security.  Also, the FCC adopted the so-called “plug and play” standard for compatibility between digital television sets and cable systems.  That standard was developed through negotiations involving the cable and consumer electronics industries, but not the satellite television industry.  The FCC’s adoption of the standard was accompanied by certain rules regarding copy protection measures that were applicable to us.  We appealed the FCC’s decision regarding the copy protection measures to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) and on January 15, 2013 the D.C. Circuit vacated the FCC’s decision.  The FCC is also considering various proposals to establish two-way digital cable “plug and play” rules.  That proceeding also asks about means to incorporate all pay-TV providers into its “plug and play” rules.  The cable industry and consumer electronics companies have reached a “tru2way” commercial arrangement to resolve many of the outstanding issues in this docket.  We cannot predict whether the FCC will impose rules on our DBS operations that are based on cable system architectures or the private cable/consumer electronics tru2way commercial arrangement.  Complying with the separate security and other “plug and play” requirements would require potentially costly modifications to our set-top boxes and operations.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of this FCC proceeding.

 

In late January 2016, the FCC announced plans to initiate a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding possible new regulations that would generally require pay-TV providers, among others, to make their video services operate on any third-party device.  Under the FCC’s proposal, consumers would have the choice of accessing cable and satellite programming through the pay-TV operator’s products and services, or through products and services offered by a third party.  These regulations, if adopted, would have the potential to impose new costs on our DISH branded pay-TV business by, among other things, requiring us to deploy additional hardware or software to enable our DISH branded pay-TV service to operate with third-party devices.  We cannot predict whether the FCC will adopt any new regulations as a result of this proposed rulemaking process or the timing or outcome of this proposed rulemaking process.

 

Retransmission Consent.  The Copyright Act generally gives satellite companies a statutory copyright license to retransmit local broadcast channels by satellite back into the market from which they originated, subject to obtaining the retransmission consent of local network stations that do not elect “must carry” status, as required by the Communications Act.  If we fail to reach retransmission consent agreements with such broadcasters, we cannot carry their signals.  This could have an adverse effect on our strategy to compete with cable and other satellite companies that provide local signals.  While we have been able to reach retransmission consent agreements with most of these local network stations, from time to time there are stations with which we have not been able to reach an agreement.  We cannot be sure that we will secure these agreements or that we will secure new agreements on acceptable terms, or at all, upon the expiration of our current retransmission consent agreements, some of which are short-term.  In recent years, national broadcasters have used their ownership of certain local broadcast stations to require us to carry additional cable programming in exchange for retransmission consent of their local broadcast stations.  These requirements may place constraints on available capacity on our satellites for other programming.  Furthermore, the rates we are charged for retransmitting local channels have been increasing substantially and may exceed our ability to increase our prices to our customers.  We may be unable to pass these increased programming costs on to our customers, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  In addition, the broadcast stations’ demands for higher rates have resulted in more frequent negotiating impasses and programming interruptions.  During these programming interruptions, our subscribers in the affected markets lack access to popular programming and may switch to another multichannel distributor that may be able to provide them with such programming.

 

13


 

The FCC is currently considering changes to its rules governing retransmission consent disputes that may provide more guidance to the negotiating parties on good-faith negotiation requirements and improve notice to consumers in advance of possible service disruptions.  In addition, in 2015 the FCC commenced a rulemaking proceeding as required by STELAR to review its “totality of circumstances” test for ensuring that television stations and MVPDs negotiate retransmission consent agreements in “good faith.”  STELAR also prohibits television stations from coordinating or engaging in joint retransmission consent negotiations with any other local television stations, unless the stations are “directly or indirectly under common de jure control,” expanding a previous FCC ruling prohibiting joint negotiations only among the top four stations in a market.  In addition, STELAR prohibits a local television station from limiting an MVPD’s ability to carry other television signals that have been deemed by the FCC to be “significantly viewed” or to carry any other television signal the MVPD is otherwise entitled to carry under the Communications Act, unless such stations are “directly or indirectly under common de jure control” pursuant to FCC regulations.  We cannot predict if the FCC’s actions or these new restrictions on broadcasters will result in more effective retransmission consent negotiations.

 

Digital HD Carry-One, Carry-All Requirement.  To provide any full-power local broadcast signal in any market, we are required to retransmit all qualifying broadcast signals in that market (“carry-one, carry-all”), including the carriage of full-power broadcasters’ HD signals in markets in which we elect to provide local channels in HD.  The carriage of additional HD signals on our DISH branded pay-TV service could cause us to experience significant capacity constraints and prevent us from carrying additional popular national programs and/or carrying those national programs in HD.

 

Distant Signals.  Pursuant to STELA, we obtained a waiver of a court injunction that previously prevented us from retransmitting certain distant network signals under a statutory copyright license.  Because of that waiver, we may provide distant network signals to eligible subscribers.  To qualify for that waiver, we are required to provide local service in all 210 local markets in the U.S. on an ongoing basis.  This condition poses a significant strain on our capacity.  Moreover, we may lose that waiver if we are found to have failed to provide local service in any of the 210 local markets.  If we lose the waiver, the injunction could be reinstated.  Furthermore, depending on the severity of the failure, we may also be subject to other sanctions, which may include, among other things, damages.

 

Cable Act and Program Access.  We purchase a large percentage of our programming from cable-affiliated programmers.  Pursuant to the Cable Act of 1992 (“Cable Act”), cable providers had been prohibited from entering into exclusive contracts with cable-affiliated programmers.  The Cable Act directed that this prohibition expire after a certain period of time unless the FCC determined that the prohibition continued to be necessary.  On October 5, 2012, the FCC allowed this prohibition to expire.  While the FCC has issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at serving some of the same objectives as the prohibition, there can be no assurances that such protections will be adopted or be as effective as the prohibition if they are adopted.  In the event this decision is reconsidered by the FCC or reviewed by a court of appeals, we cannot predict the timing or outcome of any subsequent FCC decision.

 

As a result of the expiration of this prohibition on exclusivity, we may be limited in our ability to obtain access at all, or on nondiscriminatory terms, to programming from programmers that are affiliated with cable system operators.  In addition, any other changes in the Cable Act, and/or the FCC’s rules that implement the Cable Act, that currently limit the ability of cable-affiliated programmers to discriminate against competing businesses such as ours, could adversely affect our ability to acquire cable-affiliated programming at all or to acquire programming on nondiscriminatory terms.

 

Furthermore, the FCC had imposed program access conditions on certain cable companies as a result of mergers, consolidations or affiliations with programmers.  The expiration of the exclusivity prohibition in the Cable Act triggered the termination of certain program access conditions that the FCC had imposed on Liberty Media Corporation (“Liberty”).  In July 2012, similar program access conditions that had applied to Time Warner Cable expired as previously scheduled.  These developments may adversely affect our ability to obtain Liberty’s and Time Warner Cable’s programming, or to obtain it on nondiscriminatory terms.  In the case of certain types of programming affiliated with Comcast through its control of NBCUniversal Media, LLC (“NBCUniversal”), the prohibition on exclusivity will still apply until January 2018.  During that time, we have the right to subject the terms of access to NBCUniversal’s programming to binding arbitration if we and the programmer cannot reach agreement on terms, subject to FCC review.  There can be no assurance that this procedure will result in favorable terms for us.

 

14


 

In addition, affiliates of certain cable providers have denied us access to sports programming that they supply to their cable systems terrestrially, rather than by satellite.  The FCC has held that new denials of such service are unfair if they have the purpose or effect of significantly hindering us from providing programming to consumers.  However, we cannot be sure that we can prevail in a complaint related to such programming and gain access to it.  Our continuing failure to access such programming could materially and adversely affect our ability to compete in regions serviced by these cable providers.

 

MDU Exclusivity.  The FCC has found that cable companies should not be permitted to have exclusive relationships with multiple dwelling units (e.g., apartment buildings).  In May 2009, the D.C. Circuit upheld the FCC’s decision.  While the FCC requested comments in November 2007 on whether DBS and Private Cable Operators should be prohibited from having similar relationships with multiple dwelling units, it has yet to make a formal decision.  If the cable exclusivity ban were to be extended to DBS providers, our ability to serve these types of buildings and communities would be adversely affected.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of the FCC’s consideration of this proposal.

 

Net Neutrality.  During 2010, the FCC imposed rules of nondiscrimination and transparency upon wireline broadband providers.  While this decision provides certain protection from discrimination by wireline broadband providers against our distribution of video content via the Internet, it may still permit wireline broadband providers to provide certain services over their wireline broadband network that are not subject to these requirements.  The FCC’s net neutrality rules were challenged in Federal court.  On January 14, 2014, the D.C. Circuit upheld the FCC’s transparency rule, but vacated both the nondiscrimination and anti-blocking rules.  On February 26, 2015, the FCC revised its net neutrality rules, relying primarily upon Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The new rules became effective on June 12, 2015.  They apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and generally prohibit discrimination, blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.  These new rules have been challenged and appealed to the D.C. Circuit.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of this appeal or of any subsequent challenges to the rules.  Therefore, we cannot predict the practical effect of these rules and related proceedings on our ability to distribute our video content via the Internet.

 

Comcast-NBCUniversal.  In January 2011, the FCC and the Department of Justice approved a transaction between Comcast and General Electric Company (“General Electric”), pursuant to which they joined their programming properties, including NBC, Bravo and many others, in a venture, NBCUniversal, controlled by Comcast.  During March 2013, Comcast completed the acquisition of substantially all of General Electric’s remaining interest in NBCUniversal.  The FCC conditioned its approval on, among other things, Comcast complying with the terms of the FCC’s order on network neutrality (even if that order is vacated by judicial or legislative action) and Comcast licensing its affiliated content to us, other traditional pay-TV providers and certain providers of video services over the Internet on fair and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions, including, among others, price.  If Comcast does not license its affiliated content to us on fair and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions, we can seek binding arbitration and continue to carry such content while the arbitration is pending.  However, it is uncertain how these conditions may be interpreted and enforced by the FCC; therefore, we cannot predict the practical effect of these conditions.  In addition, as these conditions expire in January 2018, we will not be able to rely on these protections beyond that date.

 

Definition of MVPD.  In December 2014, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the definition of an MVPD.  Among other things, the FCC is considering whether the definition of an MVPD should apply to Internet-based streaming services, thus making such services subject to the same regulations as an MVPD.  The FCC is also considering the appropriate treatment of purely Internet-based linear video programming services that cable operators and DBS providers offer in addition to their traditional video services.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of this rulemaking process.

 

15


 

FCC Regulation of Wireless Spectrum

 

DISH Network Spectrum

 

700 MHz Licenses.  In 2008, we paid $712 million to acquire certain 700 MHz E Block (“700 MHz”) wireless spectrum licenses, which were granted to us by the FCC in February 2009.  At the time they were granted, these licenses were subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  On October 29, 2013, the FCC issued an order approving a voluntary industry solution to resolve certain interoperability issues affecting the lower 700 MHz spectrum band (the “Interoperability Solution Order”), which requires us to reduce power emissions on our 700 MHz licenses.  As part of the Interoperability Solution Order, the FCC, among other things, approved our request to modify the original interim and final build-out requirements associated with our 700 MHz licenses so that by March 2017, we must provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 40% of our total E Block population (the “Modified 700 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  The FCC also approved our request to modify the 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement so that by March 2021, we must provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 70% of the population in each of our E Block license areas (the “Modified 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement”).  While the modifications to our 700 MHz licenses provide us additional time to complete the build-out requirements, the reduction in power emissions could have an adverse impact on our ability to fully utilize our 700 MHz licenses.  If we fail to meet the Modified 700 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement, the Modified 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by one year, from March 2021 to March 2020, and we could face the reduction of license area(s).  If we fail to meet the Modified 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement, our authorization may terminate for the geographic portion of each license in which we are not providing service.

 

AWS-4 Licenses.  On March 2, 2012, the FCC approved the transfer of 40 MHz of wireless spectrum licenses held by DBSD North America, Inc. (“DBSD North America”) and TerreStar Networks, Inc. (“TerreStar”) to us.  On March 9, 2012, we completed the acquisition of 100% of the equity of reorganized DBSD North America (the “DBSD Transaction”) and substantially all of the assets of TerreStar (the “TerreStar Transaction”), pursuant to which we acquired, among other things, certain satellite assets and wireless spectrum licenses held by DBSD North America and TerreStar.  The total consideration to acquire the DBSD North America and TerreStar assets was approximately $2.860 billion.

 

On February 15, 2013, the FCC issued an order, which became effective on March 7, 2013, modifying our licenses to expand our terrestrial operating authority with AWS-4 authority (“AWS-4”).  That order imposed certain limitations on the use of a portion of this spectrum, including interference protections for other spectrum users and power and emission limits that we presently believe could render 5 MHz of our uplink spectrum (2000-2005 MHz) effectively unusable for terrestrial services and limit our ability to fully utilize the remaining 15 MHz of our uplink spectrum (2005-2020 MHz) for terrestrial services.  These limitations could, among other things, impact the ongoing development of technical standards associated with our wireless business, and may have a material adverse effect on our ability to commercialize our AWS-4 licenses.  That order also mandated certain interim and final build-out requirements for the licenses.  By March 2017, we must provide terrestrial signal coverage and offer terrestrial service to at least 40% of the aggregate population represented by all of the areas covered by the licenses (the “AWS-4 Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By March 2020, we were required to provide terrestrial signal coverage and offer terrestrial service to at least 70% of the population in each area covered by an individual license (the “AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement”).

 

On December 20, 2013, the FCC issued a further order that, among other things, extended the AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement by one year to March 2021 (the “Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If we fail to meet the AWS-4 Interim Build-Out Requirement, the Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by one year, from March 2021 to March 2020.  If we fail to meet the Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement, our terrestrial authorization for each license area in which we fail to meet the requirement may terminate.  The FCC’s December 20, 2013 order also conditionally waived certain FCC rules for our AWS-4 licenses to allow us to repurpose all 20 MHz of our uplink spectrum (2000-2020 MHz) for downlink (the “AWS-4 Downlink Waiver”).  If we fail to notify the FCC that we intend to use our uplink spectrum for downlink by June 20, 2016, the AWS-4 Downlink Waiver will terminate, and the Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement will revert back to the AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement.

 

16


 

H Block Licenses.  On April 29, 2014, the FCC issued an order granting our application to acquire all 176 wireless spectrum licenses in the H Block auction.  We paid approximately $1.672 billion to acquire these H Block licenses, including clearance costs associated with the lower H Block spectrum.  The H Block licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  By April 2018, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 40% of the population in each area covered by an individual H Block license (the “H Block Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By April 2024, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 75% of the population in each area covered by an individual H Block license (the “H Block Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If we fail to meet the H Block Interim Build-Out Requirement, the H Block license term and the H Block Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by two years (from April 2024 to April 2022) for each H Block license area in which we fail to meet the requirement.  If we fail to meet the H Block Final Build-Out Requirement, our authorization for each H Block license area in which we fail to meet the requirement may terminate.  The FCC has adopted rules for the H Block spectrum band that is adjacent to our AWS-4 licenses.  Depending on the outcome of the standard-setting process for the H Block and our ultimate decision regarding the AWS-4 Downlink Waiver, the rules that the FCC adopted for the H Block could further impact 15 MHz of our AWS-4 uplink spectrum (2005-2020 MHz), which may have a material adverse effect on our ability to commercialize the AWS-4 licenses.

 

DISH Network Non-Controlling Investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities Related to AWS-3 Wireless Spectrum Licenses

 

Through our wholly-owned subsidiaries American II and American III, we have made over $10.0 billion in certain non-controlling investments in Northstar Spectrum, the parent company of Northstar Wireless, and in SNR HoldCo, the parent company of SNR Wireless, respectively.  On October 27, 2015, the FCC granted certain AWS-3 Licenses to Northstar Wireless and to SNR Wireless, respectively, which are recorded in “FCC authorizations” on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.  The AWS-3 Licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  By October 2021, Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 40% of the population in each area covered by an individual AWS-3 License (the “AWS-3 Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By October 2027, Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 75% of the population in each area covered by an individual AWS-3 License (the “AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If Northstar Wireless or SNR Wireless fails to meet the AWS-3 Interim Build-Out Requirement, the AWS-3 License term and the AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by two years (from October 2027 to October 2025) for each AWS-3 License area in which it fails to meet the requirement.  If Northstar Wireless or SNR Wireless fails to meet the AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement, its authorization for each AWS-3 License area in which it fails to meet the requirement may terminate. 

 

See “Item 1A. Risk Factors - We face certain risks related to our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for more information.

 

MVDDS.  We have MVDDS licenses in 82 out of 214 geographical license areas, including Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and several other major metropolitan areas.  By August 2014, we were required to meet certain FCC build-out requirements related to our MVDDS licenses, and we are subject to certain FCC service rules applicable to these licenses.  In January 2015, the FCC granted our application to extend the build-out requirements related to our MVDDS licenses.  We now have until 2019 to provide “substantial service” on our MVDDS licenses, and the licenses expire in 2024.  Our MVDDS licenses may be terminated, however, if we do not provide substantial service in accordance with the new build-out requirements.

 

State and Local Regulation

 

We are also regulated by state and local authorities.  While the FCC has preempted many state and local regulations that impair the installation and use of towers and consumer satellite dishes, our business nonetheless may be subject to state and local regulation, including, among others, zoning regulations that affect the ability to install consumer satellite antennas or build out wireless telecommunications networks.

 

17


 

International Regulation

 

We are subject to regulation by the International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”) and our satellites must be registered in the United Nations (“UN”) Registry of Space Objects.  The orbital location and frequencies for certain of our satellites are subject to the frequency registration and coordination process of the ITU.  The ITU Radio Regulations define the international rules, regulations, and rights for a satellite and associated earth stations to use specific radio frequencies at a specific orbital location.  These rules, which include deadlines for the bringing of satellite networks into use, differ depending on the type of service to be provided and the frequencies to be used by the satellite.  On our behalf, various countries have made and may in the future make additional filings for the frequency assignments at particular orbital locations that are used or to be used by our current satellite networks and potential future satellite networks we may build or acquire.

 

Our satellite services also must conform to the ITU service plans for Region 2 (which includes the United States).  If any of our operations are not consistent with this plan, the ITU will only provide authorization on a non-interference basis pending successful modification of the plan or the agreement of all affected administrations to the non-conforming operations.  Certain of our satellites are not presently entitled to any interference protection from other satellites that are in conformance with the plan.  Accordingly, unless and until the ITU modifies its service plans to include the technical parameters of our non-conforming operations, our non-conforming satellites, along with those of other non-conforming satellite operators, must not cause harmful electrical interference with other assignments that are in conformance with the ITU service plans.

 

Registration in the UN Registry of Space Objects

 

The United States and other jurisdictions in which we license satellites are parties to the UN Convention on the Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.  The UN Convention requires a satellite’s launching state to register the satellite as a space object.  The act of registration carries liability for the registering country in the event that the satellite causes third-party damage.  Administrations may place certain requirements on satellite licensees in order to procure the necessary launch or operational authorizations that accompany registration of the satellite.  In some jurisdictions, these authorizations are separate and distinct, with unique requirements, from the authorization to use a set of frequencies to provide satellite services.  There is no guarantee that we will be able to procure such authorizations even if we already possess a frequency authorization.

 

Export Control Regulation

 

The delivery of satellites and related technical information for purposes of launch by foreign launch service providers is subject to export control and prior approval requirements.  We are required to obtain import and export licenses from the United States government to receive and deliver certain components of direct-to-home satellite television systems.  In addition, the delivery of satellites and the supply of certain related ground control equipment, technical services and data, and satellite communication/control services to destinations outside the United States are subject to export control and prior approval requirements from the United States government (including prohibitions on the sharing of certain satellite-related goods and services with China).

 

PATENTS AND OTHER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

 

Many entities, including some of our competitors, have or may in the future obtain patents and other intellectual property rights that cover or affect products or services that we offer or that we may offer in the future.  In general, if a court determines that one or more of our products or services infringe intellectual property rights held by others, we may be required to cease developing or marketing those products or services, to obtain licenses from the holders of the intellectual property rights at a material cost, or to redesign those products or services in such a way as to avoid infringing any patent claims.  If those intellectual property rights are held by a competitor, we may be unable to obtain the intellectual property rights at any price, which could adversely affect our competitive position.

 

We may not be aware of all intellectual property rights that our products or services may potentially infringe.  In addition, patent applications in the United States are confidential until the Patent and Trademark Office either publishes the application or issues a patent (whichever arises first) and, accordingly, our products may infringe claims contained in pending patent applications of which we are not aware.  Further, the process of determining definitively whether a claim of infringement is valid often involves expensive and protracted litigation, even if we are ultimately successful on the merits.

 

18


 

We cannot estimate the extent to which we may be required in the future to obtain intellectual property licenses or the availability and cost of any such licenses.  Those costs, and their impact on our results of operations, could be material.  Damages in patent infringement cases can be substantial, and in certain circumstances can be trebled.  To the extent that we are required to pay unanticipated royalties to third parties, these increased costs of doing business could negatively affect our liquidity and operating results.  We are currently defending multiple patent infringement actions.  We cannot be certain the courts will conclude these companies do not own the rights they claim, that our products do not infringe on these rights and/or that these rights are not valid.  Further, we cannot be certain that we would be able to obtain licenses from these persons on commercially reasonable terms or, if we were unable to obtain such licenses, that we would be able to redesign our products to avoid infringement.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS

 

We are subject to the requirements of federal, state, local and foreign environmental and occupational safety and health laws and regulations.  These include laws regulating air emissions, water discharge and waste management.  We attempt to maintain compliance with all such requirements.  We do not expect capital or other expenditures for environmental compliance to be material in 2016 or 2017.  Environmental requirements are complex, change frequently and have become more stringent over time.  Accordingly, we cannot provide assurance that these requirements will not change or become more stringent in the future in a manner that could have a material adverse effect on our business.

 

SEGMENT REPORTING DATA AND GEOGRAPHIC AREA DATA

 

For segment reporting data and principal geographic area data for 2015, 2014 and 2013, see Note 16 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

EMPLOYEES

 

We had approximately 18,000 employees at December 31, 2015, most of whom were located in the United States.  We generally consider relations with our employees to be good.  Approximately 60 employees in two of our field offices have voted to have a union represent them in contract negotiations.  While we are not currently a party to any collective bargaining agreements, we are currently negotiating collective bargaining agreements at these offices.

 

WHERE YOU CAN FIND MORE INFORMATION

 

We are subject to the informational requirements of the Exchange Act and accordingly file our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements and other information with the SEC.  The public may read and copy any materials filed with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20549.  Please call the SEC at (800) SEC-0330 for further information on the operation of the Public Reference Room.  As an electronic filer, our public filings are also maintained on the SEC’s Internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC.  The address of that website is http://www.sec.gov.

 

WEBSITE ACCESS

 

Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act also may be accessed free of charge through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we have electronically filed such material with, or furnished it to, the SEC.  The address of that website is http://www.dish.com.

 

We have adopted a written code of ethics that applies to all of our directors, officers and employees, including our principal executive officer and senior financial officers, in accordance with Section 406 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the rules of the SEC promulgated thereunder.  Our code of ethics is available on our corporate website at http://www.dish.com.  In the event that we make changes in, or provide waivers of, the provisions of this code of ethics that the SEC requires us to disclose, we intend to disclose these events on our website.

19


 

EXECUTIVE OFFICERS OF THE REGISTRANT

(furnished in accordance with Item 401(b) of Regulation S-K, pursuant to General Instruction G(3) of Form 10-K)

 

The following table and information below sets forth the name, age and position with DISH Network of each of our executive officers, the period during which each executive officer has served as such, and each executive officer’s business experience during the past five years:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name

    

Age

    

Position

 

Charles W. Ergen

 

62

 

Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Director

 

W. Erik Carlson

 

46

 

President and Chief Operating Officer

 

Thomas A. Cullen

 

56

 

Executive Vice President, Corporate Development

 

James DeFranco

 

62

 

Executive Vice President and Director

 

R. Stanton Dodge

 

48

 

Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary

 

Bernard L. Han

 

51

 

Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning

 

Vivek Khemka

 

43

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

 

Roger J. Lynch

 

53

 

Chief Executive Officer, Sling TV Holding L.L.C.

 

Michael K. McClaskey

 

52

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

 

Brian V. Neylon

 

50

 

Executive Vice President, Acquisition and Retention

 

Paul W. Orban

 

47

 

Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer

 

Warren W. Schlichting

 

54

 

Executive Vice President, Marketing, Programming, and Media Sales

 

Steven E. Swain

 

48

 

Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

 

John W. Swieringa

 

38

 

Executive Vice President, Operations

 

 

Charles W. Ergen.  Mr. Ergen is our executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and has been Chairman of the Board of Directors of DISH Network since its formation and, during the past five years, has held executive officer and director positions with DISH Network and its subsidiaries.  Mr. Ergen also serves as executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Directors of EchoStar.  Mr. Ergen co-founded DISH Network with his future spouse, Cantey Ergen, and James DeFranco, in 1980.

 

W. Erik Carlson.  Mr. Carlson has served as President and Chief Operating Officer since December 2015 and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of DISH Network including Customer Acquisition and Retention, Operations, Finance and Accounting, Human Resources, Marketing, Media Sales, Information Technologies, Programming, and Product ManagementMr. Carlson previously served as our Executive Vice President, In-Home Service and Manufacturing Operations from February 2008 to December 2015.  Mr. Carlson also served as Senior Vice President of Retail Services, a position he held since mid-2006.  He joined DISH Network in 1995 and has held operating roles of increasing responsibility over the years.

 

Thomas A. Cullen.  Mr. Cullen has served as Executive Vice President, Corporate Development for DISH Network since July 2011.  Mr. Cullen previously served as our Executive Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Programming from April 2009 to July 2011 and as our Executive Vice President, Corporate Development from December 2006 to April 2009.  Before joining DISH Network, Mr. Cullen held various executive positions in the Telecommunications, Cable and Wireless industries.

 

James DeFrancoMr. DeFranco is one of our Executive Vice Presidents and has been one of our vice presidents and a member of the Board of Directors of DISH Network since our formation.  During the past five years he has held various executive officer and director positions with our subsidiaries.  Mr. DeFranco co-founded DISH Network with Charles W. Ergen and Cantey Ergen, in 1980.

 

R. Stanton Dodge.  Mr. Dodge has served as Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary since June 2007 and is responsible for all legal, government affairs and corporate communications for DISH Network and its subsidiaries.  Mr. Dodge has served on the Board of Directors of EchoStar since March 2009.  Mr. Dodge also served as EchoStar’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary from October 2007 to November 2011 pursuant to a management services agreement between DISH Network and EchoStar.  Since joining DISH Network in November 1996, he has held various positions of increasing responsibility in DISH Network’s legal department.

20


 

 

Bernard L. Han.  Mr. Han has served as Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning for DISH Network since December 2015.  Mr. Han previously served as our Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer from April 2009 to December 2015.  Mr. Han also served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of DISH Network from September 2006 to April 2009.  Mr. Han also served as EchoStar’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from January 2008 to June 2010 pursuant to a management services agreement between DISH Network and EchoStar.  Before joining DISH Network, Mr. Han served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Northwest Airlines, Inc. 

 

Vivek Khemka.  Mr. Khemka has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer since December 2015 and is responsible for all development and execution of technology strategy for DISH NetworkMr. Khemka previously served as Senior Vice President of Product Management from March 2013 to December 2015.  Mr. Khemka also served as Vice President of Customer Technology, a position he held from December 2011 to March 2013.  He joined DISH Network in 2009 and has held various roles of increasing responsibility over the years. Before joining DISH Network, Mr. Khemka held various positions at Danaher, Motorola and McKinsey & Co.

 

Roger J. Lynch.  Mr. Lynch has served as Executive Vice President, Advanced Technologies for DISH Network since November 2009.  Mr. Lynch also served as EchoStar’s Executive Vice President, Advanced Technologies from November 2009 to December 2014.  In addition, in July 2012, Mr. Lynch was named Chief Executive Officer of Sling TV Holding L.L.C.  Prior to joining DISH Network, Mr. Lynch served as Chairman and CEO of Video Networks International, Ltd., an Internet protocol television (“IPTV”) technology company in the United Kingdom.

 

Michael K. McClaskey.  Mr. McClaskey has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer since February 2014 and is responsible for the recruiting, benefits administration, compensation, and leadership and organizational development for DISH Network.  Mr. McClaskey joined DISH Network in 2007 and previously served as our Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer until February 2014.  Prior to DISH Network, Mr. McClaskey spent 12 years at Perot Systems where he served as Vice President of Infrastructure Solutions and Chief Information Officer.

 

Brian V. Neylon.  Mr. Neylon has served as Executive Vice President, Acquisition and Retention since December 2015 and is responsible for all acquisition and sales operations functions for DISH NetworkMr. Neylon previously served as our Senior Vice President of Sales from June 2011 to December 2015.  Since first joining DISH Network in September 1991, he has held various positions of increasing responsibility within various sales and distribution teams.

 

Paul W. Orban.  Mr. Orban has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer since December 2015 and is responsible for all aspects of our accounting department including external financial reporting, technical accounting policy, income tax accounting and internal controls for DISH Network.  Mr. Orban served as our Senior Vice President and Corporate Controller from September 2006 to December 2015 and as our Vice President and Corporate Controller from September 2003 to September 2006.  He also served as EchoStar’s Senior Vice President and Corporate Controller from 2008 to 2012 pursuant to a management services agreement between DISH Network and EchoStar.  Since joining DISH Network in 1996, Mr. Orban has held various positions of increasing responsibility in our accounting department.  Prior to DISH Network, Mr. Orban was an auditor with Arthur Andersen LLP. 

 

Warren W. Schlichting.  Mr. Schlichting has served as Executive Vice President, Marketing, Programming, and Media Sales for DISH Network since December 2015 and is responsible for the acquisition and renewal of all programming content, marketing for our DISH branded pay-TV business and the advertising sales divisionMr. Schlichting previously served as our Senior Vice President of Programming and Media Sales from October 2014 to December 2015. Mr. Schlichting joined DISH Network in September 2011 as Senior Vice President of Media Sales.  Prior to DISH Network, Mr. Schlichting served as Senior Vice President of New Business Development for Comcast from August 2002 to September 2011, leading advanced advertising efforts on multiple media and ad delivery platforms including broadband, interactive television and video-on-demand.  

 

21


 

Steven E. Swain.  Mr. Swain has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of DISH Network since October 2014.  Mr. Swain served as our Senior Vice President of Programming from April 2014 to October 2014, overseeing the acquisition and renewal of all programming content for DISH Network.  Mr. Swain joined DISH Network in 2011 as Vice President of Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis.  Prior to DISH Network, Mr. Swain spent more than 15 years working in the telecommunications sector, most recently at CenturyLink, formerly Qwest Communications, where he served in multiple leadership roles in finance, including corporate financial planning and analysis, treasury and investor relations, as well as in network engineering.

 

John W. Swieringa.  Mr. Swieringa has served as Executive Vice President, Operations since December 2015 and is responsible for the In-Home Services organization, customer service and billing, and information technology for DISH Network.  Mr. Swieringa previously served as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer from March 2014 to December 2015 and as Vice President of Information Technology Customer Applications from March 2010 to March 2014.  Mr. Swieringa joined DISH Network in December 2007 serving in our finance departmentBefore joining DISH Network, Mr. Swieringa held corporate finance positions in various Fortune 500 companies.

 

There are no arrangements or understandings between any executive officer and any other person pursuant to which any executive officer was selected as such.  Pursuant to the Bylaws of DISH Network, executive officers serve at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

 

Item 1A.   RISK FACTORS

 

The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones facing us.  If any of the following events occur, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

 

Competition and Economic Risks

 

We face intense and increasing competition from satellite television providers, cable companies and telecommunications companies, especially as the pay-TV industry has matured and bundled offers have become more prevalent, which may require us to further increase subscriber acquisition and retention spending or accept lower subscriber activations and higher subscriber churn.

 

Our business has historically focused on providing pay-TV services and we have traditionally competed against satellite television providers and cable companies, some of whom have greater financial, marketing and other resources than we do.  Many of these competitors offer video services bundled with broadband, wireless services, HD offerings, interactive services and video on demand services.  Bundled offers combining video, broadband and/or wireless services have become more prevalent and competitive.  In some cases, certain competitors have been able to potentially subsidize the price of video services with the price of broadband and/or wireless services.  With respect to our DISH branded pay-TV services, we and our competitors increasingly must seek to attract a greater proportion of new subscribers from each other’s existing subscriber bases rather than from first-time purchasers of pay-TV services.  In addition, because other pay-TV providers may be seeking to attract a greater proportion of their new subscribers from our existing subscriber base, we may be required to increase retention spending or we may provide greater discounts or credits to acquire and retain subscribers who may spend less on our services.  If our Pay-TV ARPU decreases or does not increase commensurate with increases in programming or other costs, our margins may be reduced and the long-term value of a subscriber would then decrease.  In addition, our Sling TV subscribers generally have lower priced programming packages than our DISH branded pay-TV subscribers.  Accordingly, an increase in Sling TV subscribers has a negative impact on our Pay-TV ARPU.

 

Competition has intensified in recent years as the pay-TV industry has matured and the growth of fiber-based pay-TV services offered by telecommunications companies such as Verizon and AT&T continues.  These fiber-based pay-TV services have significantly greater capacity, enabling the telecommunications companies to offer substantial HD programming content as well as bundled services.  This increasingly competitive environment may require us to increase subscriber acquisition and retention spending or accept lower subscriber activations and higher subscriber churn.  Further, as a result of this increased competitive environment and the maturation of the pay-TV industry, future growth opportunities of our DISH branded pay-TV business may be limited and our margins may be reduced, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flow.

 

22


 

In addition, traditional cable and satellite television providers have begun, and other companies such as programmers have indicated they also may begin, to offer smaller packages of programming channels directly to customers, at prices lower than our video service package offerings.  These offerings could adversely affect demand for our Pay-TV services or cause us to modify our programming packages, which may reduce our margins.

 

Moreover, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and alliances among cable television providers, telecommunications companies and others may result in, among other things, greater financial leverage and increase the availability of offerings from providers capable of bundling video, broadband and telephone services in competition with our services, and may exacerbate the risks described above.  For example, during May 2015, Charter announced its pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, which would create New Charter, the second largest cable television provider and third largest MPVD in the U.S.  This acquisition is currently undergoing regulatory review and has not been completed.  The proposed transaction, if ultimately completed, will create a duopoly, resulting in two broadband providers, New Charter and Comcast, controlling about 90% of the nation’s high-speed broadband homes between them.  In addition, the impact of New Charter would cause a significant proportion of the combined company’s high-speed broadband subscribers to lack access to alternative high-speed broadband options.  Further, if the proposed transaction ultimately is completed, New Charter would be able to, among other things, foreclose or degrade our online video offerings at various points in the broadband pipe; impose data caps on consumers who access our online video offerings; and pressure third-party content owners and programmers to withhold online rights from us and raise other MVPDs’ third-party programming costs, including us.

 

In addition, in July 2015, AT&T completed its acquisition of DirecTV, our direct competitor and the largest satellite TV provider in the U.S.  As a result of this acquisition, DirecTV, among other things, has increased access to capital, access to AT&T’s nationwide platform for wireless mobile video, and the ability to more seamlessly bundle its video services with AT&T’s broadband Internet access and wireless services.  The combined company may also be able to, among other things, pressure third-party content owners and programmers to withhold online rights from us; utilize its increased leverage over third-party content owners and programmers to reduce the price it pays for programming at the expense of other MVPDs, including us; thwart our entry into the wireless market, by, among other things, refusing to enter into data roaming agreements with us; underutilize key orbital spectrum resources that could be more efficiently used by us; foreclose or degrade our online video offerings at various points in the broadband pipe; and impose data caps on consumers who access our online video offerings.

 

Our Pay-TV subscriber base has recently been declining due to, among other things, the factors described above.  There can be no assurance that our Pay-TV subscriber base will not continue to decline.  In the event that our Pay-TV subscriber base continues to decline, it could have a material adverse long-term effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flow.

 

Changing consumer behavior and competition from digital media companies that provide or facilitate the delivery of video content via the Internet may reduce our gross new subscriber activations and may cause our subscribers to purchase fewer services from us or to cancel our services altogether, resulting in less revenue to us.

 

Our business has historically focused on providing pay-TV services, including our DISH branded and Sling branded pay-TV services.  We face competition from providers of digital media, including, among others, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, Google and Verizon that offer online services distributing movies, television shows and other video programming.  Some of these companies have larger customer bases, stronger brand recognition and greater financial, marketing and other resources than we do.  In addition, traditional providers of video entertainment, including broadcasters, cable channels and telecommunications companies, are increasing their Internet-based video offerings.  Some of these services charge nominal or no fees for access to their content, which could adversely affect demand for our Pay-TV services.  Moreover, new technologies have been, and will likely continue to be, developed that further increase the number of competitors we face with respect to video services, including competition from piracy-based video offerings. 

 

23


 

These products and services are also driving rapid changes in consumer behavior as consumers seek more control over when, where and how they consume content and access communications services.  In particular, with the large increase in the number of consumers with broadband service, a significant amount of video content has become available through online content providers for users to stream and view on their personal computers, televisions and other devices.  Similarly, consumers have increased access to video content via mobile devices.  These technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior with regard to the means by which consumers obtain video content may cause DISH subscribers to disconnect our services (“cord cutting”), downgrade to smaller, less expensive programming packages (“cord shaving”) or elect to purchase through online content providers a certain portion of the services that they would have historically purchased from us, such as pay per view movies, resulting in less revenue to us.  There can be no assurance that our Pay-TV services will be able to compete with these other providers of digital media.  Therefore, these technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior could reduce our gross new subscriber activations and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition or otherwise disrupt our business.

 

Our failure to effectively anticipate or adapt to competition or changes in consumer behavior, including with respect to younger consumers, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition or otherwise disrupt our business.

 

Economic weakness and uncertainty may adversely affect our ability to grow or maintain our business.

 

A substantial majority of our revenue comes from residential customers whose spending patterns may be affected by economic weakness and uncertainty.  Our ability to grow or maintain our business may be adversely affected by economic weakness and uncertainty and other factors that may adversely affect the pay-TV industry.  In particular, economic weakness and uncertainty could result in the following:

 

·

Fewer gross new subscriber activations and increased subscriber churn.  We could face fewer gross new subscriber activations and increased subscriber churn due to, among other things:  (i) certain economic factors that impact consumers, including, among others, rising interest rates, a potential downturn in the housing market in the United States (including a decline in housing starts) and higher unemployment, which could lead to a lack of consumer confidence and lower discretionary spending; (ii) increased price competition for our products and services; and (iii) the potential loss of independent retailers, who generate a significant percentage of our new subscribers, because many of them are small businesses that are more susceptible to the negative effects of economic weakness.  In particular, subscriber churn may increase with respect to subscribers who purchase our lower tier programming packages and who may be more sensitive to economic weakness, including, among others, our pay-in-advance subscribers.

 

·

Lower pay-TV average monthly revenue per subscriber (“Pay-TV ARPU”).  Our subscribers may disconnect our services and a growing share of pay-TV customers are “cord shaving” to downgrade to smaller, less expensive programming packages or electing to purchase through online content providers a certain portion of the services that they would have historically purchased from us, such as pay per view movies.  Cord cutting and/or cord shaving by our subscribers could negatively impact our Pay-TV ARPU.

 

·

Higher subscriber acquisition and retention costs.  Our profits may be adversely affected by increased subscriber acquisition and retention costs necessary to attract and retain subscribers during a period of economic weakness.

 

24


 

Our competitors may be able to leverage their relationships with programmers to reduce their programming costs and offer exclusive content that will place them at a competitive advantage to us.

 

The cost of programming represents the largest percentage of our overall costs.  Certain of our competitors own directly or are affiliated with companies that own programming content that may enable them to obtain lower programming costs or offer exclusive programming that may be attractive to prospective subscribers.  Unlike our larger cable and satellite competitors, some of which also provide IPTV services, we have not made significant investments in programming providers.  For example, in January 2011, the FCC and the Department of Justice approved a transaction between Comcast and General Electric pursuant to which they joined their programming properties, including NBC, Bravo and many others that are available in the majority of our programming packages, in a venture, NBCUniversal, controlled by Comcast.  During March 2013, Comcast completed the acquisition of substantially all of General Electric’s remaining interest in NBCUniversal.  This transaction may affect us adversely by, among other things, making it more difficult for us to obtain access to NBCUniversal’s programming networks on nondiscriminatory and fair terms, or at all.  The FCC conditioned its approval on, among other things, Comcast complying with the terms of the FCC’s order on network neutrality, even if that order is vacated by judicial or legislative action, and Comcast licensing its affiliated content to us, other traditional pay-TV providers and certain providers of video services over the Internet on fair and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions, including, among others, price.  If Comcast does not license its affiliated content to us on fair and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions, we can seek binding arbitration and continue to carry such content while the arbitration is pending.  However, it is uncertain how these conditions may be interpreted and enforced by the FCC; therefore, we cannot predict the practical effect of these conditions.

 

Our OTT Sling TV Internet-based services face certain risks, including, among others, significant competition.

 

Prior to 2015, we launched our Sling International video programming service (formerly known as DishWorld).  During 2015, we launched our Sling domestic and Sling Latino services.    We market our Sling TV services primarily to consumers who do not subscribe to traditional satellite and cable pay-TV services.

 

Our Sling TV services face a number of risks, including, among others, the following, which may have a material adverse effect on our Sling TV service offerings:

 

·

We face significant competition from several content providers and other companies including, among others, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, Google and Verizon, some of which have larger customer bases, stronger brand recognition, and significant financial, marketing and other resources, as well as competition from piracy based video offerings.

 

·

We offer a limited amount of programming content, and there can be no assurances that we will be able to increase the amount or type of programming content that we may offer to keep pace with, or to differentiate our Sling TV services from, other providers of online video content;

 

·

We rely on streaming-capable devices to deliver our Sling TV services, and if we are not successful in maintaining existing, and creating new, relationships, or if we encounter technological, content licensing or other impediments to our streaming content, our ability to grow our Sling TV services could be adversely impacted;

 

·

We may incur significant expenses to market our Sling TV services and build brand awareness, which could have a negative impact on the profitability of our Sling TV services;

 

·

Since we rely upon the ability of consumers to access our Sling TV services through an Internet connection, changes in how network operators handle and charge for access to data that travel across their networks, such as implementing bandwidth caps or usage-based fees, could adversely impact our Sling TV services.  In addition, many network operators that provide consumers with broadband service also provide these consumers with video programming, and these network operators may have an incentive to use their network infrastructure in a manner adverse to our continued growth and success. For example, as a result of AT&T’s recent acquisition of DirecTV, and if the proposed New Charter merger is completed, these risks may be exacerbated to the extent these and other network operators are able to provide preferential treatment to their data;

 

25


 

·

We may not be able to scale our systems and operational practices related to our Sling TV services to effectively and reliably handle growth in subscribers and features related to our services;

 

·

Our Sling TV services have functional limitations that in many cases our competitors are not constrained by, such as not being able to view content on more than one device simultaneously, and not providing consumers a feature to record content for future viewing.  If we are unable to add such functionality to our Sling TV services in the future, our ability to compete with other offerings could be adversely impacted;

 

·

The adoption or modification of laws and regulations relating to the Internet could limit or otherwise adversely affect the manner in which we conduct our Sling TV services and could cause us to incur additional expenses or alter our business model; and

 

·

We rely on EchoStar to provide the streaming delivery technology and infrastructure to support our Sling TV services.  In addition, we license our OTT service brand name “Sling” from EchoStar, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to continue to license the “Sling” brand name on acceptable terms or at all.

 

We face increasing competition from other distributors of unique programming services such as foreign language and sports programming that may limit our ability to maintain subscribers that desire these unique programming services.

 

We face increasing competition from other distributors of unique programming services such as foreign language and sports programming, including programming distributed over the Internet.  There can be no assurance that we will maintain subscribers that desire these unique programming services.  For example, the increasing availability of foreign language programming from our competitors, which in certain cases has resulted from our inability to renew programming agreements on an exclusive basis or at all, as well as competition from piracy-based video offerings, could contribute to an increase in our subscriber churn.  Our agreements with distributors of foreign language programming have varying expiration dates, and some agreements are on a month-to-month basis.  There can be no assurance that we will be able to grow or maintain subscribers that desire these unique programming services such as foreign language and sports programming.

 

Operational and Service Delivery Risks

 

If we do not continue improving our operational performance and customer satisfaction, our gross new subscriber activations may decrease and our subscriber churn may increase.

 

If we are unable to continue improving our operational performance and customer satisfaction, we may experience a decrease in gross new subscriber activations and an increase in subscriber churn, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  To improve our operational performance, we continue to make investments in staffing, training, information systems, and other initiatives, primarily in our call center and in-home service operations.  These investments are intended to help combat inefficiencies introduced by the increasing complexity of our business, improve customer satisfaction, reduce subscriber churn, increase productivity, and allow us to scale better over the long run.  We cannot, however, be certain that our spending will ultimately be successful in improving our operational performance, and if unsuccessful, we may have to incur higher costs to improve our operational performance.  While we believe that such costs will be outweighed by longer-term benefits, there can be no assurance when or if we will realize these benefits at all.  If we are unable to improve our operational performance, our future gross new subscriber activations and existing subscriber churn may be negatively impacted, which could in turn adversely affect our revenue growth and results of operations.

 

26


 

If our gross new subscriber activations decrease, or if our subscriber churn, subscriber acquisition costs or retention costs increase, our financial performance will be adversely affected.

 

We may incur increased costs to acquire new subscribers and retain existing subscribers.  Our subscriber acquisition costs could increase as a result of increased spending for advertising and, with respect to our DISH branded pay-TV services, the installation of more HD and DVR receivers, which are generally more expensive than other receivers.  Meanwhile, retention costs may be driven higher by providing retention credits and, with respect to our DISH branded pay-TV services, by increased upgrades of existing subscribers’ equipment to HD and DVR receivers.  Additionally, certain of our promotions, including, among others, pay-in-advance, allow consumers with relatively lower credit scores to become subscribers.  These subscribers typically churn at a higher rate. 

 

Our subscriber acquisition costs and our subscriber retention costs can vary significantly from period to period and can cause material variability to our net income (loss) and adjusted free cash flow.  Any material increase in subscriber acquisition or retention costs from current levels could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Programming expenses are increasing and could adversely affect our future financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our programming costs currently represent the largest component of our total expense and we expect these costs to continue to increase.  The pay-TV industry has continued to experience an increase in the cost of programming, especially local broadcast channels and sports programming.  In addition, certain programming costs are rising at a much faster rate than wages or inflation.  These factors may be exacerbated by the increasing trend of consolidation in the media industry, which may further increase our programming expenses.  Our ability to compete successfully will depend, among other things, on our ability to continue to obtain desirable programming and deliver it to our subscribers at competitive prices.

 

When offering new programming, or upon expiration of existing contracts, programming suppliers have historically attempted to increase the rates that they charge us for programming.  We expect this practice to continue, which, if successful, would increase our programming costs.  In addition, our programming expenses may also increase as we add programming to our video services or distribute existing programming to our customers through additional delivery platforms, such as Sling TV.  As a result, our margins may face further pressure if we are unable to renew our long-term programming contracts on acceptable pricing and other economic terms.  Alternatively, to attempt to mitigate the effect of price increases or for other reasons, we may elect not to carry or may be unable to carry certain channels, which could adversely affect our subscriber growth or result in higher churn.

 

In addition, increases in programming costs generally cause us to increase the rates that we charge our subscribers, which could in turn cause our existing Pay-TV subscribers to disconnect our service or cause potential new Pay-TV subscribers to choose not to subscribe to our service.  Therefore, we may be unable to pass increased programming costs on to our customers, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We depend on others to provide the programming that we offer to our subscribers and, if we fail to obtain or lose access to this programming, our gross new subscriber activations may decline and our subscriber churn may increase.

 

We depend on third parties to provide us with programming services.  Our programming agreements have remaining terms ranging from less than one to up to several years and contain various renewal, expiration and/or termination provisions.  We may not be able to renew these agreements on acceptable terms or at all, and these agreements may be terminated prior to expiration of their original term.  In recent years, negotiations over programming carriage contracts generally remain contentious, and certain programmers have, in the past, limited our access to their programming in connection with those negotiations and the scheduled expiration of their programming carriage contracts with us.  As national and local programming interruptions and threatened programming interruptions have become more frequent in recent years, in certain cases such interruptions have had a negative impact on our gross new Pay-TV subscriber activations and Pay-TV churn rate.  We cannot predict with any certainty the impact to our gross new Pay-TV subscriber activations, net Pay-TV subscriber additions and Pay-TV churn rate resulting from programming interruptions that may occur in the future.  As a result, we may at times suffer from periods of lower gross new Pay-TV subscriber activations, lower net Pay-TV subscriber additions and higher Pay-TV churn rates.

27


 

 

We typically have a few programming contracts with major content providers up for renewal each year and if we are unable to renew any of these agreements or the other parties terminate the agreements, there can be no assurance that we would be able to obtain substitute programming, or that such substitute programming would be comparable in quality or cost to our existing programming.  In addition, failure to obtain access to certain programming or loss of access to programming, particularly programming provided by major content providers and/or programming popular with our subscribers, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, including, among other things, our gross new subscriber activations, net subscriber additions and subscriber churn rate.

 

We may not be able to obtain necessary retransmission consent agreements at acceptable rates, or at all, from local network stations.

 

The Copyright Act generally gives satellite companies a statutory copyright license to retransmit local broadcast channels by satellite back into the market from which they originated, subject to obtaining the retransmission consent of local network stations that do not elect “must carry” status, as required by the Communications Act.  If we fail to reach retransmission consent agreements with such broadcasters, we cannot carry their signals.  This could have an adverse effect on our strategy to compete with cable and other satellite companies that provide local signals.  While we have been able to reach retransmission consent agreements with most of these local network stations, from time to time there are stations with which we have not been able to reach an agreement.  We cannot be sure that we will secure these agreements or that we will secure new agreements on acceptable terms, or at all, upon the expiration of our current retransmission consent agreements, some of which are short-term.  We currently have a  pending lawsuit with one major broadcast television network alleging, among other things, that the PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop features of the Hopper set-top box breach its retransmission consent agreement.  See Note 15 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.  In the event a court ultimately determines that we breached the terms of that retransmission consent agreement, we may be subject, among other things, to substantial damages and we may lose access to programming or may not be able to renew that  retransmission consent agreement and other programming agreements on favorable terms or at all.  Even if we ultimately prevail in this action, there can be no assurance that we will be able to renew our retransmission consent agreement or enter into a new agreement with this broadcast network.  In such event, there can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain substitute programming, or that such substitute programming would be comparable in quality or cost to our existing programming.  In recent years, national broadcasters have used their ownership of certain local broadcast stations to require us to carry additional cable programming in exchange for retransmission consent of their local broadcast stations.  These requirements may place constraints on available capacity on our satellites for other programming.  Furthermore, the rates we are charged for retransmitting local channels have been increasing substantially and may exceed our ability to increase our prices to our customers.  We may be unable to pass these increased programming costs on to our customers, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We may be required to make substantial additional investments to maintain competitive programming offerings.

 

We believe that the availability and extent of HD programming and other value-added services such as access to video via mobile devices continue to be significant factors in consumers’ choice among pay-TV providers.  Other pay-TV providers may have more successfully marketed and promoted their HD programming packages and value-added services and may also be better equipped and have greater resources to increase their HD offerings and value-added services to respond to increasing consumer demand.  In addition, even though it remains a small portion of the market, consumer demand for 3D televisions and programming, as well as higher resolution programming, such as 4K HD, will likely increase in the future.  We may be required to make substantial additional investments in infrastructure to respond to competitive pressure to deliver enhanced programming, and other value-added services, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to compete effectively with offerings from other pay-TV providers.

 

28


 

Any failure or inadequacy of our information technology infrastructure and communications systems, including without limitation those caused by cyber-attacks or other malicious activities, could disrupt or harm our business.

 

The capacity, reliability and security of our information technology hardware and software infrastructure (including our billing systems) and communications systems are important to the operation of our current business, which would suffer in the event of system failures or cyber-attacks.  Likewise, our ability to expand and update our information technology infrastructure in response to our growth and changing needs is important to the continued implementation of our new service offering initiatives.  Our inability to expand or upgrade our technology infrastructure could have adverse consequences, which could include, among other things, the delayed implementation of new service offerings, service or billing interruptions, and the diversion of development resources.  We rely on third parties for developing key components of our information technology and communications systems and ongoing service.  Some of our key systems and operations, including those supplied by third-party providers, are not fully redundant, and our disaster recovery planning cannot account for all eventualities.  Interruption and/or failure of any of these systems could disrupt our operations, interrupt our services and damage our reputation, thus adversely impacting our ability to provide our services, retain our current subscribers and attract new subscribers.

 

In addition, although we take protective measures and endeavor to modify them as circumstances warrant, our information technology hardware and software infrastructure and communications systems may be vulnerable to a variety of interruptions, including without limitation, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, telecommunications failures, cyber-attacks and other malicious activities such as unauthorized access, misuse, computer viruses or other malicious code, computer denial of service attacks and other events that could disrupt or harm our business.  In addition, third-party providers of some of our key systems may also experience interruptions to their information technology hardware and software infrastructure and communications systems that could adversely impact us and over which we may have limited or no control.  We may obtain certain confidential, proprietary and personal information about our customers, personnel and vendors, and may provide this information to third parties in connection with our business.  If one or more of such interruptions or failures occur to us or our third-party providers, it potentially could jeopardize such information and other information processed and stored in, and transmitted through, our information technology hardware and software infrastructure and communications systems, or otherwise cause interruptions or malfunctions in our operations, which could result in significant losses or reputational damage.  Due to the fast-moving pace of technology, it may be difficult to detect, contain and remediate every such event.  We may be required to expend significant additional resources to modify our protective measures or to investigate and remediate vulnerabilities or other exposures, and we may be subject to financial losses.  Furthermore, the amount and scope of insurance we maintain may not cover expenses related to such activities or events.

 

As a result of the increasing awareness concerning the importance of safeguarding personal information, the potential misuse of such information and legislation that has been adopted or is being considered regarding the protection, privacy and security of personal information, the potential liability associated with information-related risks is increasing, particularly for businesses like ours that handle personal customer data.  The occurrence of any such network or information system related events or security breaches could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.  Significant incidents could result in a disruption of our operations, customer dissatisfaction, damage to our reputation or a loss of customers and revenues.

 

29


 

We currently depend on EchoStar Corporation and its subsidiaries, or EchoStar, to design, develop and manufacture substantially all of our new DISH branded pay-TV set-top boxes and certain related components, to provide the vast majority of our transponder capacity, to provide digital broadcast operations and other services to us, and to provide streaming delivery technology and infrastructure for our Sling TV services.  Our business would be adversely affected if EchoStar ceases to provide these products and services to us and we are unable to obtain suitable replacement products and services from third parties.

 

EchoStar is our primary supplier of our DISH branded pay-TV digital set-top boxes and digital broadcast operations.  In addition, EchoStar provides the vast majority of our transponder capacity, is a key supplier of related services to us, and provides streaming delivery technology and infrastructure for our Sling TV services.  We purchase digital set-top boxes from EchoStar pursuant to a contract that expires on December 31, 2016.  EchoStar provides digital broadcast operations to us pursuant to a contract that expires on December 31, 2016.  EchoStar has no obligation to supply digital set-top boxes or digital broadcast operations to us after these dates.  We may be unable to renew agreements for digital set-top boxes or digital broadcast operations with EchoStar on acceptable terms or at all.  We lease the vast majority of our transponder capacity from EchoStar.  Equipment, transponder leasing and digital broadcast operation costs may increase beyond our current expectations.  EchoStar’s inability to develop and produce, or our inability to obtain, equipment with the latest technology, or our inability to obtain transponder capacity and digital broadcast operations and other services from third parties, could adversely affect our gross new subscriber activations and subscriber churn rate and cause related revenue to decline.

 

Furthermore, due to the lack of compatibility of our infrastructure with the set-top boxes of a provider other than EchoStar, any transition to a new supplier of set-top boxes could take a significant period of time to complete, cause us to incur significant costs and negatively affect our gross new subscriber activations and subscriber churn.  For example, the proprietary nature of the Slingbox “placeshifting” functionality and certain other technology used in EchoStar’s set-top boxes may significantly limit our ability to obtain set-top boxes with the same or similar features from any other provider of set-top boxes.

 

If we were to switch to another provider of set-top boxes, we may have to implement additional infrastructure to support the set-top boxes purchased from such new provider, which could significantly increase our costs.  In addition, differences in, among other things, the user interface between set-top boxes provided by EchoStar and those of any other provider could cause subscriber confusion, which could increase our costs and have a material adverse effect on our gross new subscriber activations and subscriber churn.  Furthermore, switching to a new provider of set-top boxes may cause a reduction in our supply of set-top boxes and thus delay our ability to ship set-top boxes, which could have a material adverse effect on our gross new subscriber activations and subscriber churn rate and cause related revenue to decline.

 

Technology in the pay-TV industry changes rapidly, and our success may depend in part on our timely introduction and implementation of, and effective investment in, new competitive products and services and more advanced equipment, and our failure to do so could cause our products and services to become obsolete and could negatively impact our business.

 

Technology in the pay-TV industry changes rapidly as new technologies are developed, which could cause our products and services to become obsolete.  We and our suppliers may not be able to keep pace with technological developments.  Our operating results are dependent to a significant extent upon our ability to continue to introduce new products and services and to upgrade existing products and services on a timely basis, and to reduce costs of our existing products and services.  We may not be able to successfully identify new product or service opportunities or develop and market these opportunities in a timely or cost-effective manner.  The research and development of new, technologically advanced products is a complex and uncertain process requiring high levels of innovation and investment.  The success of new product and service development depends on many factors, including among others, the following:

 

·

difficulties and delays in the development, production, timely completion, testing and marketing of products and services;

·

the cost of the products and services;

·

proper identification of customer need and customer acceptance of products and services;

30


 

·

the development of, approval of and compliance with industry standards;

·

the amount of resources we must devote to the development of new technologies; and

·

the ability to differentiate our products and services and compete with other companies in the same markets.

 

If the new technologies on which we focus our research and development investments fail to achieve acceptance in the marketplace, our competitive position could be negatively impacted, causing a reduction in our revenues and earnings.  For example, our competitors could use proprietary technologies that are perceived by the market as being superior.  Further, after we have incurred substantial costs, one or more of the products or services under our development, or under development by one or more of our strategic partners, could become obsolete prior to it being widely adopted. 

 

In addition, our competitive position depends in part on our ability to offer new DISH branded pay-TV subscribers and upgrade existing subscribers with more advanced equipment, such as receivers with DVR and HD technology and by otherwise making additional infrastructure investments, such as those related to our information technology and call centers.  We may also be at a competitive disadvantage in developing and introducing complex new products and services for our DISH branded pay-TV services because of the substantial costs we may incur in making these products or services available across our installed base of subscribers.  Furthermore, the continued demand for HD programming continues to require investments in additional satellite capacity.  We may not be able to pass on to our subscribers the entire cost of these upgrades and infrastructure investments.

 

New technologies could also create new competitors for us.  For instance, we face increasing consumer demand for the delivery of digital video services via the Internet, including providing our Sling TV services and what we refer to as “DISH Anywhere.”  We expect to continue to face increased threats from companies who use the Internet to deliver digital video services as the speed and quality of broadband and wireless networks continues to improve.

 

Technological innovation is important to our success and depends, to a significant degree, on the work of technically skilled employees.  We rely on EchoStar to design, develop and manufacture set-top boxes with advanced features and functionality and to provide the streaming delivery technology and infrastructure for our Sling TV services.  If EchoStar is unable to attract and retain appropriately technically skilled employees, our competitive position could be materially and adversely affected.  In addition, delays in the delivery of components or other unforeseen problems associated with our technology may occur that could materially and adversely affect our ability to generate revenue, offer new products and services and remain competitive.

 

If our products and services, including without limitation our DISH branded and Sling TV branded products and services, are not competitive, our business could suffer and our financial performance could be negatively impacted.  Our products and services may also experience quality problems, including outages and service slowdowns, from time to time.  If the quality of our products and services do not meet our customers’ expectations, then our business, and ultimately our reputation, could be negatively impacted.

 

We rely on a single vendor or a limited number of vendors to provide certain key products or services to us such as information technology support, billing systems, and security access devices, and the inability of these key vendors to meet our needs could have a material adverse effect on our business.

 

Historically, we have contracted with and rely on a single vendor or a limited number of vendors to provide certain key products or services to us such as information technology support, billing systems, and security access devices.  If these vendors are unable to meet our needs because they fail to perform adequately, are no longer in business, are experiencing shortages or discontinue a certain product or service we need, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.  While alternative sources for these products and services exist, we may not be able to develop these alternative sources quickly and cost-effectively, which could materially impair our ability to timely deliver our products to our subscribers or operate our business.  Furthermore, our vendors may request changes in pricing, payment terms or other contractual obligations between the parties, which could cause us to make substantial additional investments.

 

31


 

Our primary supplier of new set-top boxes, EchoStar, relies on a few suppliers and in some cases a single supplier, for many components of our new set-top boxes, and any reduction or interruption in supplies or significant increase in the price of supplies could have a negative impact on our business.

 

EchoStar relies on a few suppliers and in some cases a single supplier, for many components of our new set-top boxes that we provide to subscribers in order to deliver our digital television services. Our ability to meet customer demand depends, in part, on EchoStar’s ability to obtain timely and adequate delivery of quality materials, parts and components from suppliers. In the event of an interruption of supply or a significant price increase from these suppliers, EchoStar may not be able to diversify sources of supply in a timely manner, which could have a negative impact on our business. Further, due to increased demand for products, many electronic manufacturers are experiencing shortages for certain components.  EchoStar has experienced in the past and may continue to experience shortages driven by raw material availability, manufacturing capacity, labor shortages, industry allocations, natural disasters, logistical delays and significant changes in the financial or business conditions of its suppliers that negatively impact our operations.  Any such delays or constraints could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, including, among other things, our gross new subscriber activations.

 

Our programming signals are subject to theft, and we are vulnerable to other forms of fraud that could require us to make significant expenditures to remedy.

 

Increases in theft of our signal or our competitors’ signals could, in addition to reducing gross new subscriber activations, also cause subscriber churn to increase.  To combat signal theft and improve the security of our broadcast system, we use microchips embedded in credit card sized access cards, called “smart cards,” or security chips in our receiver systems to control access to authorized programming content (“Security Access Devices”).

 

Our signal encryption has been compromised in the past and may be compromised in the future even though we continue to respond with significant investment in security measures, such as Security Access Device replacement programs and updates in security software, that are intended to make signal theft more difficult.  It has been our prior experience that security measures may only be effective for short periods of time or not at all and that we remain susceptible to additional signal theft.  We expect that future replacements of these Security Access Devices will be necessary to keep our system secure.  We cannot ensure that we will be successful in reducing or controlling theft of our programming content and we may incur additional costs in the future if our system’s security is compromised.

 

We are also vulnerable to other forms of fraud.  While we are addressing certain fraud through a number of actions, including terminating independent retailers that we believe violated our business rules, there can be no assurance that we will not continue to experience fraud which could impact our gross new subscriber activations and subscriber churn.  Economic weakness may create greater incentive for signal theft, piracy and other forms of fraud, which could lead to higher subscriber churn and reduced revenue.

 

We depend on independent third parties to solicit orders for our services that represent a significant percentage of our total gross new subscriber activations.

 

While we offer products and services through direct sales channels, a significant percentage of our total gross new subscriber activations are generated through independent third parties such as small satellite retailers, direct marketing groups, local and regional consumer electronics stores, nationwide retailers, and telecommunications companies.  Most of our independent retailers are not exclusive to us and some of our independent retailers may favor our competitors’ products and services over ours based on the relative financial arrangements associated with marketing our products and services and those of our competitors.  Furthermore, most of these independent retailers are significantly smaller than we are and may be more susceptible to economic weaknesses that make it more difficult for them to operate profitably.  Because our independent retailers receive most of their incentive value at activation and not over an extended period of time, our interests may not always be aligned with our independent retailers.  It may be difficult to better align our interests with our independent retailers because of their capital and liquidity constraints.  Loss of these relationships could have an adverse effect on our subscriber base and certain of our other key operating metrics because we may not be able to develop comparable alternative distribution channels.

 

32


 

We have limited satellite capacity and failures or reduced capacity could adversely affect our DISH branded pay-TV business.

 

Operation of our DISH branded pay-TV service requires that we have adequate satellite transmission capacity for the programming we offer.  Moreover, current competitive conditions require that we continue to expand our offering of new programming.  While we generally have had in-orbit satellite capacity sufficient to transmit our existing channels and some backup capacity to recover the transmission of certain critical programming, our backup capacity is limited.   We lease substantially all of our satellite capacity from third parties, including the vast majority of our transponder capacity from EchoStar, and we do not carry commercial insurance on any of the satellites that we lease from them.

 

Our ability to earn revenue from our DISH branded pay-TV service depends on the usefulness of our owned and leased satellites, each of which has a limited useful life.  A number of factors affect the useful lives of the satellites, including, among other things, the quality of their construction, the durability of their component parts, the ability to continue to maintain proper orbit and control over the satellite’s functions, the efficiency of the launch vehicle used, and the remaining on-board fuel following orbit insertion.  Generally, the minimum design life of each of our satellites ranges from 12 to 15 years.  We can provide no assurance, however, as to the actual useful lives of any of these satellites.  Our operating results could be adversely affected if the useful life of any of our owned or leased satellites were significantly shorter than the minimum design life.

 

In the event of a failure or loss of any of our owned or leased satellites, we may need to acquire or lease additional satellite capacity or relocate one of our other owned or leased satellites and use it as a replacement for the failed or lost satellite, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  Such a failure could result in a prolonged loss of critical programming or a significant delay in our plans to expand programming as necessary to remain competitive.  A relocation would require FCC approval and, among other things, may require a showing to the FCC that the replacement satellite would not cause additional interference compared to the failed or lost satellite.  We cannot be certain that we could obtain such FCC approval.  If we choose to use a satellite in this manner, this use could adversely affect our ability to satisfy certain operational conditions associated with our authorizations.  Failure to satisfy those conditions could result in the loss of such authorizations, which would have an adverse effect on our ability to generate revenues.

 

Our owned and leased satellites are subject to construction, launch, operational and environmental risks that could limit our ability to utilize these satellites.

 

Construction and launch risks.  A key component of our business strategy is our ability to expand our offering of new programming and services for our DISH branded pay-TV business.  To accomplish this goal, from time to time, new satellites need to be built and launched.  Satellite construction and launch is subject to significant risks, including construction and launch delays, launch failure and incorrect orbital placement.  Certain launch vehicles that may be used by us have either unproven track records or have experienced launch failures in the recent past.  The risks of launch delay and failure are usually greater when the launch vehicle does not have a track record of previous successful flights.  Launch failures result in significant delays in the deployment of satellites because of the need both to construct replacement satellites, which can take more than three years, and to obtain other launch opportunities.  Significant construction or launch delays could materially and adversely affect our ability to generate revenues.  If we were unable to obtain launch insurance, or obtain launch insurance at rates we deem commercially reasonable, and a significant launch failure were to occur, it could impact our ability to fund future satellite procurement and launch opportunities.

 

In addition, the occurrence of future launch failures for other operators may delay the deployment of our satellites and materially and adversely affect our ability to insure the launch of our satellites at commercially reasonable premiums, if at all.  See further information under the caption “We generally do not carry commercial launch or in-orbit insurance on any of the satellites that we use, other than certain satellites leased from third parties, and could face significant impairment charges if any of our owned satellites fail” below.

 

33


 

Operational risks.  Satellites are subject to significant operational risks while in orbit.  These risks include malfunctions, commonly referred to as anomalies that have occurred in our satellites and the satellites of other operators as a result of various factors, such as manufacturing defects, problems with the power systems or control systems of the satellites and general failures resulting from operating satellites in the harsh environment of space.

 

Although we work closely with the satellite manufacturers to determine and eliminate the cause of anomalies in new satellites and provide for redundancies of many critical components in the satellites, we may experience anomalies in the future, whether of the types described above or arising from the failure of other systems or components.

 

Any single anomaly or series of anomalies could materially and adversely affect our operations and revenues and our relationship with current customers, as well as our ability to attract new customers for our Pay-TV services.  In particular, future anomalies may result in the loss of individual transponders on a satellite, a group of transponders on that satellite or the entire satellite, depending on the nature of the anomaly.  Anomalies may also reduce the expected useful life of a satellite, thereby reducing the channels that could be offered using that satellite, or create additional expenses due to the need to provide replacement or back-up satellites.  See disclosures relating to satellite anomalies set forth under Note 8 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

Environmental risks.  Meteoroid events pose a potential threat to all in-orbit satellites.  The probability that meteoroids will damage those satellites increases significantly when the Earth passes through the particulate stream left behind by comets.  Occasionally, increased solar activity also poses a potential threat to all in-orbit satellites.

 

Some decommissioned satellites are in uncontrolled orbits that pass through the geostationary belt at various points, and present hazards to operational satellites, including our satellites.  We may be required to perform maneuvers to avoid collisions and these maneuvers may prove unsuccessful or could reduce the useful life of the satellite through the expenditure of fuel to perform these maneuvers.  The loss, damage or destruction of any of our satellites as a result of an electrostatic storm, collision with space debris, malfunction or other event could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We generally do not carry commercial launch or in-orbit insurance on any of the satellites that we use, other than certain satellites leased from third parties, and could face significant impairment charges if any of our owned satellites fail.

 

Generally, we do not carry commercial launch or in-orbit insurance on any of the satellites we use, other than certain satellites leased from third parties, and generally do not use commercial insurance to mitigate the potential financial impact of launch or in-orbit failures because we believe that the cost of insurance premiums is uneconomical relative to the risk of such failures.  We lease substantially all of our satellite capacity from third parties, including the vast majority of our transponder capacity from EchoStar, and we do not carry commercial insurance on any of the satellites we lease from them.  While we generally have had in-orbit satellite capacity sufficient to transmit our existing channels and some backup capacity to recover the transmission of certain critical programming, our backup capacity is limited.  In the event of a failure or loss of any of our owned or leased satellites, we may need to acquire or lease additional satellite capacity or relocate one of our other owned or leased satellites and use it as a replacement for the failed or lost satellite.  If one or more of our owned in-orbit satellites fail, we could be required to record significant impairment charges.

 

34


 

We may have potential conflicts of interest with EchoStar due to our common ownership and management.

 

Questions relating to conflicts of interest may arise between EchoStar and us in a number of areas relating to our past and ongoing relationships.  Areas in which conflicts of interest between EchoStar and us could arise include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

·

Cross officerships, directorships and stock ownership.  We have certain overlap in directors and executive officers with EchoStar. These individuals may have actual or apparent conflicts of interest with respect to matters involving or affecting each company.  Our Board of Directors and executive officers include persons who are members of the Board of Directors of EchoStar, including Charles W. Ergen, who serves as the Chairman of EchoStar and our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.  The executive officers and the members of our Board of Directors who overlap with EchoStar have fiduciary duties to EchoStar’s shareholders.  For example, there is the potential for a conflict of interest when we or EchoStar look at acquisitions and other business opportunities that may be suitable for both companies.  In addition, certain of our directors and officers own EchoStar stock and options to purchase EchoStar stock.  Mr. Ergen owns approximately 30.4% of EchoStar’s total equity securities (assuming conversion of all Class B Common Stock into Class A Common Stock) and beneficially owns approximately 39.1% of EchoStar’s total equity securities (assuming conversion of only the Class B Common Stock held by Mr. Ergen into Class A Common Stock).  Under either a beneficial or equity calculation method, Mr. Ergen controls approximately 51.6% of the voting power of EchoStar.  Mr. Ergen’s ownership of EchoStar excludes 20,883,001 shares of its Class A Common Stock issuable upon conversion of shares of its Class B Common Stock currently held by certain trusts established by Mr. Ergen for the benefit of his family.  These trusts own approximately 22.5% of EchoStar’s total equity securities (assuming conversion of all Class B Common Stock into Class A Common Stock) and beneficially own approximately 31.7% of EchoStar’s total equity securities (assuming conversion of only the Class B Common Stock held by such trusts into Class A Common Stock).  Under either a beneficial or equity calculation method, these trusts possess approximately 40.0% of EchoStar’s total voting power. These ownership interests could create actual, apparent or potential conflicts of interest when these individuals are faced with decisions that could have different implications for us and EchoStar.  Furthermore, Charles W. Ergen, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, is employed by both us and EchoStar. In addition, as a result of the Satellite and Tracking Stock Transaction discussed in Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we own shares of a series of preferred tracking stock issued by EchoStar and shares of a series of preferred tracking stock issued by Hughes Satellite Systems Corporation (“HSSC”), a subsidiary of EchoStar (collectively, the “Tracking Stock”).  The Tracking Stock generally tracks the residential retail satellite broadband business of Hughes Network Systems, LLC (“HNS”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of HSSC, including without limitation the operations, assets and liabilities attributed to the Hughes residential retail satellite broadband business (collectively, the “Hughes Retail Group”). The shares of the Tracking Stock issued to us represent an aggregate 80% economic interest in the Hughes Retail Group. Although our investment in the Tracking Stock represents an aggregate 80% economic interest in the Hughes Retail Group, we have no operational control or significant influence over the Hughes Retail Group business, and currently there is no public market for the Tracking Stock.  Further, effective July 1, 2012, we and EchoStar formed Sling TV Holding L.L.C. (“Sling TV Holding,” formerly known as DISH Digital Holding L.L.C.), which was owned two-thirds by us and one-third by EchoStar.  Sling TV Holding was formed to develop and commercialize certain advanced technologies.  Effective August 1, 2014, EchoStar and Sling TV Holding entered into an Exchange Agreement pursuant to which, among other things, Sling TV Holding distributed certain assets to EchoStar and EchoStar reduced its interest in Sling TV Holding to a ten percent non-voting interest.  We now have a ninety percent equity interest and a 100% voting interest in Sling TV HoldingDuring 2015, we launched our Sling domestic and Sling Latino services.  See Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information.

 

35


 

·

Intercompany agreements with EchoStar.  In connection with and following the Spin-off, we and EchoStar have entered into certain agreements pursuant to which we obtain certain products, services and rights from EchoStar, EchoStar obtains certain products, services and rights from us, and we and EchoStar have indemnified each other against certain liabilities arising from our respective businesses.  See Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on our Related Party Transactions with EchoStar.  The terms of certain of these agreements were established while EchoStar was a wholly-owned subsidiary of us and were not the result of arm’s length negotiations.  The allocation of assets, liabilities, rights, indemnifications and other obligations between EchoStar and us under the separation and other intercompany agreements we entered into with EchoStar, in connection with the Spin-off, may have been different if agreed to by two unaffiliated parties.  Had these agreements been negotiated with unaffiliated third parties, their terms may have been more favorable, or less favorable, to us.  In addition, conflicts could arise between us and EchoStar in the interpretation or any extension or renegotiation of these existing agreements.

 

·

Additional intercompany transactions.  EchoStar and its subsidiaries have and will continue to enter into transactions with us and our subsidiaries.  Although the terms of any such transactions will be established based upon negotiations between EchoStar and us and, when appropriate, subject to the approval of a committee of the non-interlocking directors or in certain instances non-interlocking management, there can be no assurance that the terms of any such transactions will be as favorable to us or our subsidiaries or affiliates as may otherwise be obtained between unaffiliated parties.

 

·

Business opportunities.  We have historically retained, and in the future may acquire, interests in various companies that have subsidiaries or controlled affiliates that own or operate domestic or foreign services that may compete with services offered by EchoStar.  We may also compete with EchoStar when we participate in auctions for spectrum or orbital slots for our satellites.  In addition, EchoStar may in the future use its satellites, uplink and transmission assets to compete directly against us in the subscription television business.

 

We may not be able to resolve any potential conflicts, and, even if we do so, the resolution may be less favorable to us than if we were dealing with an unaffiliated party.

 

Other than certain arrangements with EchoStar that we entered into in connection with Sling TV Holding, which, subject to certain exceptions, limit EchoStar’s and our ability to operate an IPTV service other than operated by Sling TV Holding, we do not have agreements with EchoStar that would prevent either company from competing with the other.

 

We rely on key personnel and the loss of their services may negatively affect our business.

 

We believe that our future success will depend to a significant extent upon the performance of Charles W. Ergen, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and certain other executives.  The loss of Mr. Ergen or of certain other key executives could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  Although all of our executives have executed agreements limiting their ability to work for or consult with competitors if they leave us, we do not have employment agreements with any of them.  Mr. Ergen also serves as the Chairman of EchoStar.  To the extent our officers are performing services for EchoStar, this may divert their time and attention away from our business and may therefore adversely affect our business.

 

Acquisition and Capital Structure Risks

 

We have made substantial investments to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and other related assets.  In addition, we have made substantial non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities related to AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses.

 

DISH Network Spectrum

 

We have invested over $5.0 billion since 2008 to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets.

 

36


 

700 MHz Licenses.  In 2008, we paid $712 million to acquire certain 700 MHz wireless spectrum licenses, which were granted to us by the FCC in February 2009.  At the time they were granted, these licenses were subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  On October 29, 2013, the FCC issued an order approving a voluntary industry solution to resolve certain interoperability issues affecting the lower 700 MHz spectrum band (the “Interoperability Solution Order”), which requires us to reduce power emissions on our 700 MHz licenses.  As part of the Interoperability Solution Order, the FCC, among other things, approved our request to modify the original interim and final build-out requirements associated with our 700 MHz licenses so that by March 2017, we must provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 40% of our total E Block population (the “Modified 700 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  The FCC also approved our request to modify the 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement so that by March 2021, we must provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 70% of the population in each of our E Block license areas (the “Modified 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement”).  While the modifications to our 700 MHz licenses provide us additional time to complete the build-out requirements, the reduction in power emissions could have an adverse impact on our ability to fully utilize our 700 MHz licenses.  If we fail to meet the Modified 700 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement, the Modified 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by one year, from March 2021 to March 2020, and we could face the reduction of license area(s).  If we fail to meet the Modified 700 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement, our authorization may terminate for the geographic portion of each license in which we are not providing service.

 

AWS-4 Licenses.  On March 2, 2012, the FCC approved the transfer of 40 MHz of wireless spectrum licenses held by DBSD North America and TerreStar to us.  On March 9, 2012, we completed the DBSD Transaction and the TerreStar Transaction, pursuant to which we acquired, among other things, certain satellite assets and wireless spectrum licenses held by DBSD North America and TerreStar.  The total consideration to acquire the DBSD North America and TerreStar assets was approximately $2.860 billion.

 

On February 15, 2013, the FCC issued an order, which became effective on March 7, 2013, modifying our licenses to expand our terrestrial operating authority with AWS-4 authority.  That order imposed certain limitations on the use of a portion of this spectrum, including interference protections for other spectrum users and power and emission limits that we presently believe could render 5 MHz of our uplink spectrum (2000-2005 MHz) effectively unusable for terrestrial services and limit our ability to fully utilize the remaining 15 MHz of our uplink spectrum (2005-2020 MHz) for terrestrial services.  These limitations could, among other things, impact the ongoing development of technical standards associated with our wireless business, and may have a material adverse effect on our ability to commercialize our AWS-4 licenses.  That order also mandated certain interim and final build-out requirements for the licenses.  By March 2017, we must provide terrestrial signal coverage and offer terrestrial service to at least 40% of the aggregate population represented by all of the areas covered by the licenses (the “AWS-4 Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By March 2020, we were required to provide terrestrial signal coverage and offer terrestrial service to at least 70% of the population in each area covered by an individual license (the “AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement”).

 

On December 20, 2013, the FCC issued a further order that, among other things, extended the AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement by one year to March 2021 (the “Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If we fail to meet the AWS-4 Interim Build-Out Requirement, the Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by one year, from March 2021 to March 2020.  If we fail to meet the Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement, our terrestrial authorization for each license area in which we fail to meet the requirement may terminate.  The FCC’s December 20, 2013 order also conditionally waived certain FCC rules for our AWS-4 licenses to allow us to repurpose all 20 MHz of our uplink spectrum (2000-2020 MHz) for downlink (the “AWS-4 Downlink Waiver”).  If we fail to notify the FCC that we intend to use our uplink spectrum for downlink by June 20, 2016, the AWS-4 Downlink Waiver will terminate, and the Modified AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement will revert back to the AWS-4 Final Build-Out Requirement.

 

37


 

H Block Licenses.  On April 29, 2014, the FCC issued an order granting our application to acquire all 176 wireless spectrum licenses in the H Block auction.  We paid approximately $1.672 billion to acquire these H Block licenses, including clearance costs associated with the lower H Block spectrum.  The H Block licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  By April 2018, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 40% of the population in each area covered by an individual H Block license (the “H Block Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By April 2024, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 75% of the population in each area covered by an individual H Block license (the “H Block Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If we fail to meet the H Block Interim Build-Out Requirement, the H Block license term and the H Block Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by two years (from April 2024 to April 2022) for each H Block license area in which we fail to meet the requirement.  If we fail to meet the H Block Final Build-Out Requirement, our authorization for each H Block license area in which we fail to meet the requirement may terminate.  The FCC has adopted rules for the H Block spectrum band that is adjacent to our AWS-4 licenses.  Depending on the outcome of the standard-setting process for the H Block and our ultimate decision regarding the AWS-4 Downlink Waiver, the rules that the FCC adopted for the H Block could further impact 15 MHz of our AWS-4 uplink spectrum (2005-2020 MHz), which may have a material adverse effect on our ability to commercialize the AWS-4 licenses.

 

Commercialization of Our Wireless Spectrum Licenses and Related Assets. We have made substantial investments to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets.  We will need to make significant additional investments or partner with others to, among other things, commercialize, build-out, and integrate these licenses and related assets, and any additional acquired licenses and related assets; and comply with regulations applicable to such licenses.  Depending on the nature and scope of such commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, and regulatory compliance, any such investments or partnerships could vary significantly.  We may also determine that additional wireless spectrum licenses may be required to commercialize our wireless business and to compete with other wireless service providers.   For example, on February 10, 2016, we filed an application with the FCC to potentially participate as a bidder in the upcoming Auction 1000.  Auction 1000 is scheduled to begin on March 29, 2016.  The FCC determined that bidding in Auction 1000 will be “anonymous,” which means that prior to and during the course of the auction, the FCC will not make public any information about a specific applicant’s upfront deposits or its bids.  In addition, FCC rules restrict information that bidders may disclose about their participation in Auction 1000.  We may need to raise significant additional capital in the future to fund the efforts described above, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all.  There can be no assurance that we will be able to develop and implement a business model that will realize a return on these wireless spectrum licenses or that we will be able to profitably deploy the assets represented by these wireless spectrum licenses, which may affect the carrying amount of these assets and our future financial condition or results of operations.

 

DISH Network Non-Controlling Investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities Related to AWS-3 Wireless Spectrum Licenses

 

Through our wholly-owned subsidiaries American II and American III, we have made over $10.0 billion in certain non-controlling investments in Northstar Spectrum, the parent company of Northstar Wireless, and in SNR HoldCo, the parent company of SNR Wireless, respectively.  Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless each filed applications with the FCC to participate in Auction 97 (the “AWS-3 Auction”) for the purpose of acquiring certain AWS-3 Licenses.  Each of Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless applied to receive bidding credits of 25% as designated entities under applicable FCC rules.  In February 2015, one of our wholly-owned subsidiaries received a refund from the FCC of its $400 million upfront payment made in 2014 related to the AWS-3 Auction.

 

Northstar Wireless was the winning bidder for AWS-3 Licenses with gross winning bid amounts totaling approximately $7.845 billion, which after taking into account a 25% bidding credit, is approximately $5.884 billion.  SNR Wireless was the winning bidder for AWS-3 Licenses with gross winning bid amounts totaling approximately $5.482 billion, which after taking into account a 25% bidding credit, is approximately $4.112 billion.  In addition to the net winning bids, SNR Wireless made a bid withdrawal payment of approximately $8 million.

 

38


 

On August 18, 2015, the FCC released a Memorandum Opinion and Order, FCC 15-104 (the “Order”) in which the FCC determined, among other things, that DISH Network has a controlling interest in, and is an affiliate of, Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless, and therefore DISH Network’s revenues should be attributed to them, which in turn makes Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless ineligible to receive the 25% bidding credits (approximately $1.961 billion for Northstar Wireless and $1.370 billion for SNR Wireless) (each a “Bidding Credit Amount” and collectively the “Bidding Credit Amounts”).  Each of Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless has filed a notice of appeal and petition for review of the Order with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, challenging, among other things, the FCC’s determination that they are ineligible to receive the Bidding Credit Amounts.  We cannot predict with any degree of certainty the timing or outcome of these proceedings.  An adverse ruling against Northstar Wireless or SNR Wireless in these proceedings could potentially result in fines and/or revocation of the Northstar Licenses or SNR Licenses, respectively. 

 

On October 1, 2015, DISH Network, American II, American III, Northstar Wireless, SNR Wireless, and certain other entities holding certain interests in Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless, entered into a series of arrangements with respect to the AWS-3 Licenses, as further described below. 

 

Letters Exchanged between Northstar Wireless and the FCC Wireless Bureau.  As outlined in letters exchanged between Northstar Wireless and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau of the FCC (the “FCC Wireless Bureau”), Northstar Wireless paid the gross winning bid amounts for 261 AWS-3 Licenses (the “Northstar Licenses”) totaling approximately $5.619 billion through the application of funds already on deposit with the FCC.  Northstar Wireless also notified the FCC that it would not be paying the gross winning bid amounts for 84 AWS-3 Licenses totaling approximately $2.226 billion.

 

As a result of the nonpayment of those gross winning bid amounts, the FCC retained those licenses and Northstar Wireless owed the FCC an additional interim payment of approximately $334 million (the “Northstar Interim Payment”), which is equal to 15% of $2.226 billion.  The Northstar Interim Payment is recorded in “FCC auction expense” on our Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income (Loss) for the year ended December 31, 2015.  Northstar Wireless immediately satisfied the Northstar Interim Payment through the application of funds already on deposit with the FCC and an additional loan from American II of approximately $69 million. As a result, the FCC will not deem Northstar Wireless to be a “current defaulter” under applicable FCC rules.

 

In addition, the FCC Wireless Bureau acknowledged that Northstar Wireless’ nonpayment of those gross winning bid amounts does not constitute action involving gross misconduct, misrepresentation or bad faith. Therefore, the FCC concluded that such nonpayment will not affect the eligibility of Northstar Wireless, its investors (including DISH Network) or their respective affiliates to participate in future spectrum auctions (including Auction 1000 and any re-auction of the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC).  At this time, DISH Network (through itself, a subsidiary or another entity in which it may hold a direct or indirect interest) expects to participate in any re-auction of those AWS-3 Licenses.

 

If the winning bids from re-auction or other award of the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC are greater than or equal to the winning bids of Northstar Wireless, no additional amounts will be owed to the FCC.  However, if those winning bids are less than the winning bids of Northstar Wireless, then Northstar Wireless will be responsible for the difference less any overpayment of the Northstar Interim Payment (which will be recalculated as 15% of the winning bids from re-auction or other award) (the “Northstar Re-Auction Payment”).  For example, if the winning bids in a re-auction are $1, the Northstar Re-Auction Payment would be approximately $1.892 billion, which is calculated as the difference between $2.226 billion (the Northstar winning bid amounts) and $1 (the winning bids from re-auction) less the resulting $334 million overpayment of the Northstar Interim Payment.  As discussed above, at this time, DISH Network (through itself, a subsidiary or another entity in which it may hold a direct or indirect interest) expects to participate in any re-auction.  We cannot predict with any degree of certainty the timing or outcome of any re-auction or the amount of any Northstar Re-Auction Payment.

 

39


 

Amendment to Northstar Wireless Credit Agreement.  On October 1, 2015, American II, Northstar Wireless and Northstar Spectrum amended the First Amended and Restated Credit Agreement dated October 13, 2014, by and among American II, as Lender, Northstar Wireless, as Borrower, and Northstar Spectrum, as Guarantor (as amended, the “Northstar Credit Agreement”), to provide, among other things, that:  (i) the Northstar Interim Payment and any Northstar Re-Auction Payment will be made by American II directly to the FCC and will be deemed as loans under the Northstar Credit Agreement; (ii) the FCC is a third-party beneficiary with respect to American II’s obligation to pay the Northstar Interim Payment and any Northstar Re-Auction Payment; (iii) in the event that the winning bids from re-auction or other award of the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC are less than the winning bids of Northstar Wireless, the purchaser, assignee or transferee of any AWS-3 Licenses from Northstar Wireless is obligated to pay its pro-rata share of the difference (and Northstar Wireless remains jointly and severally liable for such pro-rata share); and (iv) during the period between the due date for the payments guaranteed under the FCC Northstar Guaranty (as discussed below) and the date such guaranteed payments are paid, Northstar Wireless’ payment obligations to American II under the Northstar Credit Agreement will be subordinated to such guaranteed payments. 

 

DISH Network Guaranty in Favor of the FCC for Certain Northstar Wireless Obligations.  On October 1, 2015, DISH Network entered into a guaranty in favor of the FCC (the “FCC Northstar Guaranty”) with respect to the Northstar Interim Payment (which was satisfied on October 1, 2015) and any Northstar Re-Auction Payment.  The FCC Northstar Guaranty provides, among other things, that during the period between the due date for the payments guaranteed under the FCC Northstar Guaranty and the date such guaranteed payments are paid:  (i) Northstar Wireless’ payment obligations to American II under the Northstar Credit Agreement will be subordinated to such guaranteed payments; and (ii) DISH Network or American II will withhold exercising certain rights as a creditor of Northstar Wireless. 

 

Letters Exchanged between SNR Wireless and the FCC Wireless Bureau.    As outlined in letters exchanged between SNR Wireless and the FCC Wireless Bureau, SNR Wireless paid the gross winning bid amounts for 244 AWS-3 Licenses (the “SNR Licenses”) totaling approximately $4.271 billion through the application of funds already on deposit with the FCC and a portion of an additional loan from American III in an aggregate amount of approximately $344 million (which included an additional bid withdrawal payment of approximately $3 million).  SNR Wireless also notified the FCC that it would not be paying the gross winning bid amounts for 113 AWS-3 Licenses totaling approximately $1.211 billion.

 

As a result of the nonpayment of those gross winning bid amounts, the FCC retained those licenses and SNR Wireless owed the FCC an additional interim payment of approximately $182 million (the “SNR Interim Payment”), which is equal to 15% of $1.211 billion.  The SNR Interim Payment is recorded in “FCC auction expense” on our Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income (Loss) for the year ended December 31, 2015.  SNR Wireless immediately satisfied the SNR Interim Payment through a portion of an additional loan from American III in an aggregate amount of approximately $344 million.  As a result, the FCC will not deem SNR Wireless to be a “current defaulter” under applicable FCC rules.

 

In addition, the FCC Wireless Bureau acknowledged that SNR Wireless’ nonpayment of those gross winning bid amounts does not constitute action involving gross misconduct, misrepresentation or bad faith.  Therefore, the FCC concluded that such nonpayment will not affect the eligibility of SNR Wireless, its investors (including DISH Network) or their respective affiliates to participate in future spectrum auctions (including Auction 1000 and any re-auction of the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC).  At this time, DISH Network (through itself, a subsidiary or another entity in which it may hold a direct or indirect interest) expects to participate in any re-auction of those AWS-3 Licenses.

 

If the winning bids from re-auction or other award of the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC are greater than or equal to the winning bids of SNR Wireless, no additional amounts will be owed to the FCC.  However, if those winning bids are less than the winning bids of SNR Wireless, then SNR Wireless will be responsible for the difference less any overpayment of the SNR Interim Payment (which will be recalculated as 15% of the winning bids from re-auction or other award) (the “SNR Re-Auction Payment”).  For example, if the winning bids in a re-auction are $1, the SNR Re-Auction Payment would be approximately $1.029 billion, which is calculated as the difference between $1.211 billion (the SNR winning bid amounts) and $1 (the winning bids from re-auction) less the resulting $182 million overpayment of the SNR Interim Payment.  As discussed above, at this time, DISH Network (through itself, a subsidiary or another entity in which it may hold a direct or indirect interest) expects to participate in any re-auction.  We cannot predict with any degree of certainty the timing or outcome of any re-auction or the amount of any SNR Re-Auction Payment.

40


 

 

Amendment to SNR Wireless Credit Agreement.  On October 1, 2015, American III, SNR Wireless and SNR HoldCo amended the First Amended and Restated Credit Agreement dated October 13, 2014, by and among American III, as Lender, SNR Wireless, as Borrower, and SNR HoldCo, as Guarantor (as amended, the “SNR Credit Agreement”), to provide, among other things, that:  (i) the SNR Interim Payment and any SNR Re-Auction Payment will be made by American III directly to the FCC and will be deemed as loans under the SNR Credit Agreement; (ii) the FCC is a third-party beneficiary with respect to American III’s obligation to pay the SNR Interim Payment and any SNR Re-Auction Payment; (iii) in the event that the winning bids from re-auction or other award of the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC are less than the winning bids of SNR Wireless, the purchaser, assignee or transferee of any AWS-3 Licenses from SNR Wireless is obligated to pay its pro-rata share of the difference (and SNR Wireless remains jointly and severally liable for such pro-rata share); and (iv) during the period between the due date for the payments guaranteed under the FCC SNR Guaranty (as discussed below) and the date such guaranteed payments are paid, SNR Wireless’ payment obligations to American III under the SNR Credit Agreement will be subordinated to such guaranteed payments. 

 

DISH Network Guaranty in Favor of the FCC for Certain SNR Wireless Obligations.  On October 1, 2015, DISH Network entered into a guaranty in favor of the FCC (the “FCC SNR Guaranty,”) with respect to the SNR Interim Payment (which was satisfied on October 1, 2015) and any SNR Re-Auction Payment.  The FCC SNR Guaranty provides, among other things, that  during the period between the due date for the payments guaranteed under the FCC SNR Guaranty and the date such guaranteed payments are paid:  (i) SNR Wireless’ payment obligations to American III under the SNR Credit Agreement will be subordinated to such guaranteed payments; and (ii) DISH Network or American III will withhold exercising certain rights as a creditor of SNR Wireless.

 

Northstar Wireless is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northstar Spectrum.  Through American II, we own an 85% non-controlling interest in Northstar Spectrum.  Northstar Manager, LLC (“Northstar Manager”) owns a 15% controlling interest in, and is the sole manager of, Northstar Spectrum.  Northstar Spectrum is governed by a limited liability company agreement by and between American II and Northstar Manager (the “Northstar Spectrum LLC Agreement”).  Pursuant to the Northstar Spectrum LLC Agreement, American II and Northstar Manager made pro-rata equity contributions in Northstar Spectrum.  As of October 1, 2015, the total equity contributions from American II and Northstar Manager to Northstar Spectrum were approximately $750 million and $133 million, respectively.  As of October 1, 2015, the total loans from American II to Northstar Wireless under the Northstar Credit Agreement for payments to the FCC related to the Northstar Licenses were approximately $5.070 billion.

 

SNR Wireless is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SNR HoldCo.  Through American III, we own an 85% non-controlling interest in SNR HoldCo.  SNR Wireless Management, LLC (“SNR Management”) owns a 15% controlling interest in, and is the sole manager of, SNR HoldCo.  SNR HoldCo is governed by a limited liability company agreement by and between American III and SNR Management (the “SNR HoldCo LLC Agreement”).  Pursuant to the SNR HoldCo LLC Agreement, American III and SNR Management made pro-rata equity contributions in SNR HoldCo.  As of October 1, 2015, the total equity contributions from American III and SNR Management to SNR HoldCo were approximately $524 million and $93 million, respectively.  As of October 1, 2015, the total loans from American III to SNR Wireless under the SNR Credit Agreement for payments to the FCC related to the SNR Licenses were approximately $3.847 billion.

 

After Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless satisfied their respective payments to the FCC on October 1, 2015 for the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses, and the Northstar Interim Payment and the SNR Interim Payment (which included an additional bid withdrawal payment), our total non-controlling debt and equity investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities for payments to the FCC related to the AWS-3 Licenses were approximately $10.191 billion.  Under the applicable accounting guidance in ASC 810, Northstar Spectrum and SNR HoldCo are considered variable interest entities and, based on the characteristics of the structure of these entities and in accordance with the applicable accounting guidance, we have consolidated these entities into our financial statements beginning in the fourth quarter 2014.  See Note 2 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

41


 

On October 27, 2015, the FCC granted the Northstar Licenses to Northstar Wireless and the SNR Licenses to SNR Wireless, respectively, which are recorded in “FCC authorizations” on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.  The AWS-3 Licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  By October 2021, Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 40% of the population in each area covered by an individual AWS-3 License (the “AWS-3 Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By October 2027, Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 75% of the population in each area covered by an individual AWS-3 License (the “AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If Northstar Wireless or SNR Wireless fails to meet the AWS-3 Interim Build-Out Requirement, the AWS-3 License term and the AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by two years (from October 2027 to October 2025) for each AWS-3 License area in which it fails to meet the requirement.  If Northstar Wireless or SNR Wireless fails to meet the AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement, its authorization for each AWS-3 License area in which it fails to meet the requirement may terminate. 

 

We may need to make significant additional loans to the Northstar Entities and to the SNR Entities, or they may need to partner with others, so that the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities may commercialize, build-out and integrate the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses, and comply with regulations applicable to the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses.  Depending upon the nature and scope of such commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, and regulatory compliance, any such loans or partnerships could vary significantly.  We may need to raise significant additional capital in the future, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all, to make further investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities.  There can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain a profitable return on our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities.  See “We face certain risks related to our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition” below for more information.

 

Impairment of Assets

 

Furthermore, the fair values of wireless spectrum licenses and related assets may vary significantly in the future.  In particular, valuation swings could occur if:

 

·

consolidation in the wireless industry allows or requires wireless carriers to sell significant portions of their wireless spectrum holdings, which could in turn reduce the value of our spectrum holdings;

·

a sale of spectrum by one or more wireless providers occurs;

·

the FCC pursues certain policies designed to increase the number of wireless spectrum licenses available in each of our markets; or

·

the FCC conducts additional wireless spectrum auctions.

 

If the fair value of our wireless spectrum licenses were to decline significantly, the value of these licenses could be subject to impairment charges.  We assess potential impairments to our indefinite-lived intangible assets annually or more often if indicators of impairment arise to determine whether there is evidence that indicate an impairment condition may exist.

 

Accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“GAAP”) requires that a long-lived asset be reviewed for impairment when circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of the asset might not be recoverable.  It was determined that the T1 and D1 satellites met this criteria and therefore in the fourth quarter 2015 we tested the T1 satellite and D1 satellite and related ground equipment for impairment.  We have concluded that the T1 satellite’s fair value exceeded its carrying amount and no impairment was necessary.  In addition, we have concluded that the carrying amount of the D1 satellite and related ground equipment exceeded their fair value determined under the cost approach.  To arrive at fair value utilizing the cost approach, a replacement cost for the satellite was determined, which was then reduced for, among other things, depreciation and obsolescence.  As a result of this assessment, we wrote down the net book value of the D1 satellite from $150 million to $55 million and the net book value of the related ground equipment from $28 million to zero and recorded an impairment charge of $123 million in “Impairment of long-lived assets” on our Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income (Loss) for the year ended December 31, 2015.    As of December 31, 2015, the net book value for T1 and D1 was $299 million and $55 million, respectively.  

 

42


 

We face certain risks related to our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

In addition to the risks described in “Item 1A. Risk Factors - We have made substantial investments to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and other related assets.  In addition, we have made substantial non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities related to AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we face certain other risks related to our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities, including, among others, the risks described below.  Any of the following risks, among others, may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

On October 27, 2015, the FCC granted the Northstar Licenses to Northstar Wireless and the SNR Licenses to SNR Wireless, respectively.  We do not own or control the Northstar Licenses or the SNR Licenses nor do we control the Northstar Entities or the SNR Entities.  We do not have a right to require Northstar Manager or SNR Management to sell their respective ownership interests in Northstar Spectrum and SNR Holdco to us.  Northstar Manager, as the sole manager of Northstar Spectrum, and SNR Management, as the sole manager of SNR Holdco, will have the exclusive right and power to manage, operate and control Northstar Spectrum and SNR Holdco, respectively, subject to certain limited protective provisions for the benefit of American II and American III, respectively.  Northstar Manager and SNR Management will have the ability, but not the obligation, to require Northstar Spectrum and SNR Holdco, respectively, to purchase Northstar Manager’s and SNR Management’s ownership interests in those respective entities after the fifth anniversary of the grant date of the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses (and in certain circumstances prior to the fifth anniversary of the grant date of the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses).  Thus, we cannot be certain that the Northstar Licenses or the SNR Licenses will be developed in a manner fully consistent with our current or future business plans.

 

Each of Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless applied to receive bidding credits of 25% as designated entities under applicable FCC rules.  The FCC implemented rules and policies governing the designated entity program that are intended to ensure that qualifying designated entities are not controlled by operators or investors that do not meet certain qualification tests.  Qualification is also subject to challenge in qui tam lawsuits filed by private parties alleging that participants have defrauded the government in which the person bringing the suit may share in any recovery by the government.  Furthermore, litigation surrounding designated entity structures, increased regulatory scrutiny or third party or government lawsuits with respect to our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities could result in fines, and in certain cases, license revocation and/or criminal penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

On August 18, 2015, the FCC released the Order in which the FCC determined, among other things, that DISH Network has a controlling interest in, and is an affiliate of, Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless, and therefore DISH Network’s revenues should be attributed to them, which in turn makes Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless ineligible to receive the Bidding Credit Amounts (approximately $1.961 billion for Northstar Wireless and $1.370 billion for SNR Wireless).  Each of Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless has filed a notice of appeal and petition for review of the Order with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, challenging, among other things, the FCC’s determination that they are ineligible to receive the Bidding Credit Amounts.  We cannot predict with any degree of certainty the timing or outcome of these proceedings.  An adverse ruling against Northstar Wireless or SNR Wireless in these proceedings could potentially result in fines and/or revocation of the Northstar Licenses or SNR Licenses, respectively.  See “We have made substantial investments to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and other related assets.  In addition, we have made substantial non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities related to AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses” above for further information.

 

We may need to make significant additional loans to the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities, or they may need to partner with others, so that the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities may commercialize, build-out and integrate the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses, and comply with regulations applicable to the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses.  Depending upon the nature and scope of such commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, and regulatory compliance, any such loans or partnerships could vary significantly.  We may need to raise significant additional capital in the future, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all, to make further investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities.  There can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain a profitable return on our non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities.

 

43


 

To the extent that we commercialize our wireless spectrum licenses, we will face certain risks entering and competing in the wireless services industry and operating a wireless services business.

 

We have made substantial investments to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets.  We will need to make significant additional investments or partner with others to, among other things, commercialize, build-out, and integrate these licenses and related assets, and any additional acquired licenses and related assets; and comply with regulations applicable to such licenses.  Depending on the nature and scope of such commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, and regulatory compliance, any such investments or partnerships could vary significantly.  We may also determine that additional wireless spectrum licenses may be required to commercialize our wireless business and to compete with other wireless service providers.  For example, on February 10, 2016, we filed an application with the FCC to potentially participate as a bidder in the upcoming Auction 1000.  Auction 1000 is scheduled to begin on March 29, 2016.  The FCC determined that bidding in Auction 1000 will be “anonymous,” which means that prior to and during the course of the auction, the FCC will not make public any information about a specific applicant’s upfront deposits or its bids.  In addition, FCC rules restrict information that bidders may disclose about their participation in Auction 1000.  We may need to raise significant additional capital in the future to fund the efforts described above, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all.  There can be no assurance that we will be able to develop and implement a business model that will realize a return on these wireless spectrum licenses or that we will be able to profitably deploy the assets represented by these wireless spectrum licenses, which may affect the carrying amount of these assets and our future financial condition or results of operations.

 

To the extent we commercialize our wireless spectrum licenses and enter the wireless services industry, a wireless services business presents certain risks.  Any of the following risks, among others, may have a material adverse effect on our future business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

·

The wireless services industry is competitive.  We have limited experience in the wireless services industry, which is a competitive industry, with increasing customer demands for data services that require increasing capital resources to maintain a robust network.  The wireless services industry has incumbent and established competitors such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile USA Inc. (“T-Mobile”) and Sprint Corporation (“Sprint”), with substantial market share.  Some of these companies have greater financial, marketing and other resources than us, and have existing cost and operational advantages that we lack.  Market saturation is expected to continue to cause the wireless services industry’s customer growth rate to moderate in comparison to historical growth rates, leading to increased competition for customers.  As the industry matures, competitors increasingly must seek to attract a greater proportion of new subscribers from each other’s existing subscriber bases rather than from first-time purchasers of wireless services.  Furthermore, the cost of attracting a new customer is generally higher than the cost associated with retaining an existing customer.  In addition, we may face increasing competition from wireless telecommunications providers who offer mobile video offerings.  Wireless mobile video offerings will likely become more prevalent in the marketplace as wireless telecommunications providers expand the fourth generation of wireless communications.  In July 2015, AT&T completed its acquisition of DirecTV, our direct competitor and the largest satellite TV provider in the U.S.  As a result of this acquisition, DirecTV, among other things, has increased access to capital, access to AT&T’s nationwide platform for wireless mobile video, and the ability to more seamlessly bundle its video services with AT&T’s broadband Internet access and wireless services.  The combined company may be able to, among other things, pressure third-party content owners and programmers to withhold online rights from us; utilize its increased leverage over third-party content owners and programmers to reduce the price it pays for programming at the expense of other MVPDs, including us; thwart our entry into the wireless market, by, among other things, refusing to enter into data roaming agreements with us; foreclose or degrade our online video offerings at various points in the broadband pipe; and impose data caps on consumers who access our online video offerings.

 

44


 

·

Our ability to compete effectively would be dependent on a number of factors.  Our ability to compete effectively would depend on, among other things, our network quality, capacity and coverage; the pricing of our products and services; the quality of customer service; our development of new and enhanced products and services; the reach and quality of our sales and distribution channels; our ability to predict and adapt to future changes in technologies and changes in consumer demands; and capital resources.  It would also depend on how successfully we anticipate and respond to various competitive factors affecting the industry, including, among others, new technologies and business models, products and services that may be introduced by competitors, changes in consumer preferences, the demand for services, demographic trends, economic conditions, and discount pricing and other strategies that may be implemented by competitors.  It may be difficult for us to differentiate our products and services from other competitors in the industry, which may limit our ability to attract customers.  Our success also may depend on our ability to access and deploy adequate spectrum, deploy new technologies and offer attractive services to customers.  For example, we may not be able to obtain and offer certain technologies or features that are subject to competitor patents or other exclusive arrangements.

 

·

We would depend on third parties to provide us with infrastructure and products and services.  We would depend on various key suppliers and vendors to provide us, directly or through other suppliers, with infrastructure, equipment and services, such as switch and network equipment, handsets and other devices and equipment that we would need in order to operate a wireless services business and provide products and services to our customers.  For example, handset and other device suppliers often rely on one vendor for the manufacture and supply of critical components, such as chipsets, used in their devices.  If these suppliers or vendors fail to provide equipment or services on a timely basis or fail to meet performance expectations, we may be unable to provide products and services as and when expected by our customers.  Any difficulties experienced with these suppliers and vendors could result in additional expense and/or delays in introducing our wireless services.  Our efforts would involve significant expense and require strategic management decisions on, and timely implementation of, equipment choices, network deployment and management, and service offerings.  In addition, these suppliers and vendors may also be subject to litigation with respect to technology on which we would depend, including litigation involving claims of patent infringement.

 

·

Wireless services and our wireless spectrum licenses are subject to government regulation.  Wireless services and our wireless spectrum licenses are subject to regulation by the FCC and other federal, state and local, as well as international, governmental authorities.  These governmental authorities could adopt regulations or take other actions that would adversely affect our business prospects, making it more difficult and/or expensive to commercialize our wireless spectrum licenses.  The licensing, construction, operation, sale and interconnection arrangements of wireless telecommunications systems are regulated by the FCC and, depending on the jurisdiction, other federal and international, state and local regulatory agencies.  In particular, the FCC imposes significant regulation on licensees of wireless spectrum with respect to how radio spectrum is used by licensees, the nature of the services that licensees may offer and how the services may be offered, and resolution of issues of interference between spectrum bands.  The FCC grants wireless licenses for terms of generally ten years that are subject to renewal or revocation.  There can be no assurances that our wireless spectrum licenses will be renewed or that we will be able to obtain additional licenses.  Failure to comply with FCC requirements in a given license area could result in revocation of the license for that license area.  For further information related to our wireless spectrum licenses, including build-out requirements, see other Risk Factors above.

 

We may pursue acquisitions and other strategic transactions to complement or expand our business that may not be successful, and we may lose up to the entire value of our investment in these acquisitions and transactions.

 

Our future success may depend on opportunities to buy other businesses or technologies that could complement, enhance or expand our current businesses or products or that might otherwise offer us growth opportunities.  To pursue this strategy successfully, we must identify attractive acquisition or investment opportunities and successfully complete transactions, some of which may be large and complex.  We may not be able to identify or complete attractive acquisition or investment opportunities due to, among other things, the intense competition for these transactions.  If we are not able to identify and complete such acquisition or investment opportunities, our future results of operations and financial condition may be adversely affected.

 

45


 

We may be unable to obtain in the anticipated timeframe, or at all, any regulatory approvals required to complete proposed acquisitions and other strategic transactions.  Furthermore, the conditions imposed for obtaining any necessary approvals could delay the completion of such transactions for a significant period of time or prevent them from occurring at all.  We may not be able to complete such transactions and such transactions, if executed, pose significant risks and could have a negative effect on our operations.  Any transactions that we are able to identify and complete may involve a number of risks, including:

 

·

the diversion of our management’s attention from our existing businesses to integrate the operations and personnel of the acquired or combined business or joint venture;

 

·

possible adverse effects on our operating results during the integration process;

 

·

a high degree of risk inherent in these transactions, which could become substantial over time, and higher exposure to significant financial losses if the underlying ventures are not successful;

 

·

our possible inability to achieve the intended objectives of the transaction; and

 

·

the risks associated with complying with regulations applicable to the acquired business, which may cause us to incur substantial expenses.

 

In addition, we may not be able to successfully or profitably integrate, operate, maintain and manage our newly acquired operations or employees.  We may not be able to maintain uniform standards, controls, procedures and policies, and this may lead to operational inefficiencies.  In addition, the integration process may strain our financial and managerial controls and reporting systems and procedures.

 

New acquisitions, joint ventures and other transactions may require the commitment of significant capital that would otherwise be directed to investments in our existing business.  To pursue acquisitions and other strategic transactions, we may need to raise additional capital in the future, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all.

 

In addition to committing capital to complete the acquisitions, substantial capital may be required to operate the acquired businesses following their acquisition.  These acquisitions may result in significant financial losses if the intended objectives of the transactions are not achieved.  Some of the businesses acquired by us have experienced significant operating and financial challenges in their recent history, which in some cases resulted in these businesses commencing bankruptcy proceedings prior to our acquisition.  We may acquire similar businesses in the future.  There is no assurance that we will be able to successfully address the challenges and risks encountered by these businesses following their acquisition.  If we are unable to successfully address these challenges and risks, our business, financial condition and/or results of operations may suffer.

 

We may need additional capital, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all, to continue investing in our business and to finance acquisitions and other strategic transactions.

 

We may need to raise significant additional capital in the future, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all, to among other things, continue investing in our business, construct and launch new satellites, and to pursue acquisitions and other strategic transactions.  Weakness in the equity markets could make it difficult for us to raise equity financing without incurring substantial dilution to our existing shareholders.  Adverse changes in the credit markets, including rising interest rates, could increase our borrowing costs and/or make it more difficult for us to obtain financing for our operations or refinance existing indebtedness.  In addition, economic weakness or weak results of operations may limit our ability to generate sufficient internal cash to fund investments, capital expenditures, acquisitions and other strategic transactions, as well as to fund ongoing operations and service our debt.  Furthermore, our borrowing costs can be affected by short and long-term debt ratings assigned by independent rating agencies, which are based, in significant part, on our performance as measured by their credit metrics.  A decrease in these ratings would likely increase our cost of borrowing and/or make it more difficult for us to obtain financing.  A severe disruption in the global financial markets could impact some of the financial institutions with which we do business, and such instability could also affect our access to financing.  As a result, these conditions make it difficult for us to accurately forecast and plan future business activities because we may not have access to funding sources necessary for us to pursue organic and strategic business development opportunities.

 

46


 

See “We have made substantial investments to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and other related assets.  In addition, we have made substantial non-controlling investments in the Northstar Entities and the SNR Entities related to AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses” above for more information.

 

From time to time a portion of our investment portfolio may be invested in securities that have limited liquidity and may not be immediately accessible to support our financing needs, including investments in public companies that are highly speculative and have experienced and continue to experience volatility.

 

From time to time a portion of our investment portfolio may be invested in strategic investments, and as a result, a portion of our portfolio may have restricted liquidity.  If the credit ratings of these securities deteriorate or there is a lack of liquidity in the marketplace, we may be required to record impairment charges.  Moreover, the uncertainty of domestic and global financial markets can greatly affect the volatility and value of our marketable investment securities.  In addition, a portion of our investment portfolio may include strategic and financial investments in debt and equity securities of public companies that are highly speculative and experience volatility.  Typically, these investments are concentrated in a small number of companies.  The fair value of these investments can be significantly impacted by the risk of adverse changes in securities markets generally, as well as risks related to the performance of the companies whose securities we have invested in, risks associated with specific industries, and other factors.  These investments are subject to significant fluctuations in fair value due to the volatility of the securities markets and of the underlying businesses.  The concentration of these investments as a percentage of our overall investment portfolio fluctuates from time to time based on, among other things, the size of our investment portfolio and our ability to liquidate these investments.  In addition, because our portfolio may be concentrated in a limited number of companies, we may experience a significant loss if any of these companies, among other things, defaults on its obligations, performs poorly, does not generate adequate cash flow to fund its operations, is unable to obtain necessary financing on acceptable terms, or at all, or files for bankruptcy, or if the sectors in which these companies operate experience a market downturn.  To the extent we require access to funds, we may need to sell these securities under unfavorable market conditions, record impairment charges and fall short of our financing needs.

 

We have substantial debt outstanding and may incur additional debt.

 

As of December 31, 2015, our total long-term debt and capital lease obligations, including the debt of our subsidiaries, was $13.756 billion.  On February 1, 2016, we redeemed the $1.5 billion principal balance of our 7 1/8% Senior Notes due 2016 using a substantial portion of our available cash and investment securities on hand.  Following repayment of our 7 1/8% Senior Notes due 2016, our total long-term debt and capital lease obligations, including the debt of our subsidiaries, was approximately $12.3 billion.

 

Our debt levels could have significant consequences, including:

 

·

making it more difficult to satisfy our obligations;

·

a dilutive effect on our outstanding equity capital or future earnings;

·

increasing our vulnerability to general adverse economic conditions, including changes in interest rates;

·

requiring us to devote a substantial portion of our cash to make interest and principal payments on our debt, thereby reducing the amount of cash available for other purposes.  As a result, we would have limited financial and operating flexibility in responding to changing economic and competitive conditions;

·

limiting our ability to raise additional debt because it may be more difficult for us to obtain debt financing on attractive terms; and

·

placing us at a disadvantage compared to our competitors that are less leveraged.

 

In addition, we may incur substantial additional debt in the future.  The terms of the indentures relating to our senior notes permit us to incur additional debt.  If new debt is added to our current debt levels, the risks we now face could intensify.

 

47


 

It may be difficult for a third party to acquire us, even if doing so may be beneficial to our shareholders, because of our ownership structure.

 

Certain provisions of our certificate of incorporation and bylaws may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company that a shareholder may consider favorable.  These provisions include the following:

 

·

a capital structure with multiple classes of common stock:  a Class A that entitles the holders to one vote per share, a Class B that entitles the holders to ten votes per share, a Class C that entitles the holders to one vote per share, except upon a change in control of our company in which case the holders of Class C are entitled to ten votes per share;

 

·

a provision that authorizes the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock, which could be issued by our Board of Directors to increase the number of outstanding shares and thwart a takeover attempt;

 

·

a provision limiting who may call special meetings of shareholders; and

 

·

a provision establishing advance notice requirements for nominations of candidates for election to our Board of Directors or for proposing matters that can be acted upon by shareholders at shareholder meetings.

 

In addition, pursuant to our certificate of incorporation we have a significant amount of authorized and unissued stock which would allow our Board of Directors to issue shares to persons friendly to current management, thereby protecting the continuity of its management, or which could be used to dilute the stock ownership of persons seeking to obtain control of us.

 

We are controlled by one principal stockholder who is also our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

 

Charles W. Ergen, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, owns approximately 44.8% of our total equity securities (assuming conversion of all Class B Common Stock into Class A Common Stock) and beneficially owns approximately 48.4% of our total equity securities (assuming conversion of only the Class B Common Stock held by Mr. Ergen into Class A Common Stock).  Under either a beneficial or equity calculation method, Mr. Ergen controls approximately 78.5% of the total voting power.  Mr. Ergen’s beneficial ownership of shares of Class A Common Stock excludes 33,790,620 shares of Class A Common Stock issuable upon conversion of shares of Class B Common Stock currently held by certain trusts established by Mr. Ergen for the benefit of his family.  These trusts own approximately 7.3% of our total equity securities (assuming conversion of all Class B Common Stock into Class A Common Stock) and beneficially own approximately 13.1% of our total equity securities (assuming conversion of only the Class B Common Stock held by such trusts into Class A Common Stock).  Under either a beneficial or equity calculation method, these trusts possess approximately 13.0% of the total voting power.  Through his voting power, Mr. Ergen has the ability to elect a majority of our directors and to control all other matters requiring the approval of our stockholders.  As a result, DISH Network is a “controlled company” as defined in the Nasdaq listing rules and is, therefore, not subject to Nasdaq requirements that would otherwise require us to have:  (i) a majority of independent directors; (ii) a nominating committee composed solely of independent directors; (iii) compensation of our executive officers determined by a majority of the independent directors or a compensation committee composed solely of independent directors; and (iv) director nominees selected, or recommended for the Board’s selection, either by a majority of the independent directors or a nominating committee composed solely of independent directors.  Mr. Ergen is also the principal stockholder and Chairman of EchoStar.

 

48


 

Legal and Regulatory Risks

 

A ruling in the Do Not Call litigation requiring us to pay substantial civil penalties and/or damages and/or enjoining us, whether acting directly or indirectly through authorized telemarketers or independent third-party retailers, from certain activities could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flow.

 

On March 25, 2009, our wholly-owned subsidiary DISH Network L.L.C. was sued in a civil action by the United States Attorney General and several states in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule, as well as analogous state statutes and state consumer protection laws.  The plaintiffs allege that we, directly and through certain independent third-party retailers and their affiliates, committed certain telemarketing violations.  On December 23, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment, which indicated for the first time that the state plaintiffs were seeking civil penalties and damages of approximately $270 million and that the federal plaintiff was seeking an unspecified amount of civil penalties (which could substantially exceed the civil penalties and damages being sought by the state plaintiffs).  The plaintiffs are also seeking injunctive relief that if granted would, among other things, enjoin DISH Network L.L.C., whether acting directly or indirectly through authorized telemarketers or independent third-party retailers, from placing any outbound telemarketing calls to market or promote its goods or services for five years, and enjoin DISH Network L.L.C. from accepting activations or sales from certain existing independent third-party retailers and from certain new independent third-party retailers, except under certain circumstances.  We also filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of all claims.  On December 12, 2014, the Court issued its opinion with respect to the parties’ summary judgment motions.  The Court found that DISH Network L.L.C. is entitled to partial summary judgment with respect to one claim in the action.  In addition, the Court found that the plaintiffs are entitled to partial summary judgment with respect to ten claims in the action, which includes, among other things, findings by the Court establishing DISH Network L.L.C.’s liability for a substantial amount of the alleged outbound telemarketing calls by DISH Network L.L.C. and certain of its independent third-party retailers that were the subject of the plaintiffs’ motion.  The Court did not issue any injunctive relief and did not make any determination on civil penalties or damages, ruling instead that the scope of any injunctive relief and the amount of any civil penalties or damages are questions for trial.  In pre-trial disclosures, the federal plaintiff indicated that it intends to seek up to $900 million in alleged civil penalties, and the state plaintiffs indicated that they now intend to seek $23.5 billion in alleged civil penalties and damages.  The first phase of the bench trial took place January 19, 2016 through February 11, 2016.  The Court will conduct a second phase of the bench trial in October 2016, which we anticipate will cover the plaintiffs’ requested injunctive relief, as well as DISH Network L.L.C.’s response to certain evidence presented by the plaintiffs in the first phase. A ruling requiring us to pay substantial civil penalties and/or damages and/or enjoining us, whether acting directly or indirectly through authorized telemarketers or independent third-party retailers, from the activities described above could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flow. 

 

Our business depends on certain intellectual property rights and on not infringing the intellectual property rights of others.

 

We rely on our patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets, as well as licenses and other agreements with our vendors and other parties, to use our technologies, conduct our operations and sell our products and services.  Legal challenges to our intellectual property rights and claims of intellectual property infringement by third parties could require that we enter into royalty or licensing agreements on unfavorable terms, incur substantial monetary liability or be enjoined preliminarily or permanently from further use of the intellectual property in question or from the continuation of our business as currently conducted, which could require us to change our business practices or limit our ability to compete effectively or could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.  Even if we believe any such challenges or claims are without merit, they can be time-consuming and costly to defend and divert management’s attention and resources away from our business.  We currently have a pending lawsuit with one major broadcast television network alleging, among other things, that the PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop features of the Hopper set-top box infringe its copyrights.  See Note 15 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.  In the event a court ultimately determines that we infringe the asserted copyrights, we may be subject to, among other things, an injunction that could require us to materially modify or cease to offer these features.  Moreover, because of the rapid pace of technological change, we rely on technologies developed or licensed by third parties, and if we are unable to obtain or continue to obtain licenses from these third parties on reasonable terms, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

 

49


 

In addition, we work with third parties such as vendors, contractors and suppliers for the development and manufacture of components that are integrated into our products and services, and our products and services may contain technologies provided to us by these third parties or other third parties.  We may have little or no ability to determine in advance whether any such technology infringes the intellectual property rights of others.  Our vendors, contractors and suppliers may not be required to indemnify us if a claim of infringement is asserted against us, or they may be required to indemnify us only up to a maximum amount, above which we would be responsible for any further costs or damages.  Legal challenges to these intellectual property rights may impair our ability to use the products, services and technologies that we need in order to operate our business and may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We are party to various lawsuits which, if adversely decided, could have a significant adverse impact on our business, particularly lawsuits regarding intellectual property.

 

We are subject to various legal proceedings and claims which arise in the ordinary course of business, including among other things, disputes with programmers regarding fees.  Many entities, including some of our competitors, have or may in the future obtain patents and other intellectual property rights that may cover or affect products or services related to those that we offer.  In general, if a court determines that one or more of our products or services infringes on intellectual property held by others, we may be required to cease developing or marketing those products or services, to obtain licenses from the holders of the intellectual property at a material cost, or to redesign those products or services in such a way as to avoid infringing the intellectual property.  If those intellectual property rights are held by a competitor, we may be unable to obtain the intellectual property at any price, which could adversely affect our competitive position.  See further information under “Item 1. Business — Patents and Other Intellectual Property” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

We may not be aware of all intellectual property rights that our services or the products used in connection with our services may potentially infringe.  In addition, patent applications in the United States are confidential until the Patent and Trademark Office either publishes the application or issues a patent (whichever arises first).  Therefore, it is difficult to evaluate the extent to which our services or the products used in connection with our services may infringe claims contained in pending patent applications.  Further, it is sometimes not possible to determine definitively whether a claim of infringement is valid.

 

Our ability to distribute video content via the Internet, including our Sling TV services, involves regulatory risk.

 

As a result of recent updates to certain of our programming agreements which allow us to, among other things, deliver certain authenticated content via the Internet and/or deliver certain content through our Sling TV services, we are increasingly distributing video content to our subscribers via the Internet and through our Sling TV services.  The ability to continue this strategy may depend in part on the FCC’s success in implementing rules prohibiting paid prioritization and blocking, throttling and discrimination against our distribution of content over broadband networks.  For more information, see “Item 1.  Business — Government Regulations — FCC Regulations Governing our DBS Operations — Net Neutrality” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Changes in the Cable Act, and/or the rules of the FCC that implement the Cable Act, may limit our ability to access programming from cable-affiliated programmers at nondiscriminatory rates.

 

We purchase a large percentage of our programming from cable-affiliated programmers.  Pursuant to the Cable Act, cable providers had been prohibited from entering into exclusive contracts with cable-affiliated programmers.  The Cable Act directed that this prohibition expire after a certain period of time unless the FCC determined that the prohibition continued to be necessary.  On October 5, 2012, the FCC allowed this prohibition to expire.  While the FCC has issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at serving some of the same objectives as the prohibition, there can be no assurances that such protections will be adopted or be as effective as the prohibition if they are adopted.  In the event this decision is reconsidered by the FCC or reviewed by a court of appeals, we cannot predict the timing or outcome of any subsequent FCC decision.

 

50


 

As a result of the expiration of this prohibition on exclusivity, we may be limited in our ability to obtain access at all, or on nondiscriminatory terms, to programming from programmers that are affiliated with cable system operators.  In addition, any other changes in the Cable Act, and/or the FCC’s rules that implement the Cable Act, that currently limit the ability of cable-affiliated programmers to discriminate against competing businesses such as ours, could adversely affect our ability to acquire cable-affiliated programming at all or to acquire programming on nondiscriminatory terms.

 

Furthermore, the FCC had imposed program access conditions on certain cable companies as a result of mergers, consolidations or affiliations with programmers.  The expiration of the exclusivity prohibition in the Cable Act triggered the termination of certain program access conditions that the FCC had imposed on Liberty.  In July 2012, similar program access conditions that had applied to Time Warner Cable expired as previously scheduled.  These developments may adversely affect our ability to obtain Liberty’s and Time Warner Cable’s programming, or to obtain it on nondiscriminatory terms.  In the case of certain types of programming affiliated with Comcast through its control of NBCUniversal, the prohibition on exclusivity will still apply until January 2018.  During that time, we have the right to subject the terms of access to NBCUniversal’s programming to binding arbitration if we and the programmer cannot reach agreement on terms, subject to FCC review.  There can be no assurance that this procedure will result in favorable terms for us.

 

In addition, affiliates of certain cable providers have denied us access to sports programming that they distribute to their cable systems terrestrially, rather than by satellite.  The FCC has held that new denials of such service are unfair if they have the purpose or effect of significantly hindering us from providing programming to consumers.  However, we cannot be certain that we can prevail in a complaint related to such programming and gain access to it.  Our continuing failure to access such programming could materially and adversely affect our ability to compete in regions serviced by these cable providers.

 

The injunction against our retransmission of distant networks, which is currently waived, may be reinstated.

 

Pursuant to STELA, we obtained a waiver of a court injunction that previously prevented us from retransmitting certain distant network signals under a statutory copyright license.  Because of that waiver, we may provide distant network signals to eligible subscribers.  To qualify for that waiver, we are required to provide local service in all 210 local markets in the U.S. on an ongoing basis.  This condition poses a significant strain on our capacity.  Moreover, we may lose that waiver if we are found to have failed to provide local service in any of the 210 local markets.  If we lose the waiver, the injunction could be reinstated.  Furthermore, depending on the severity of the failure, we may also be subject to other sanctions, which may include, among other things, damages.

 

We are subject to significant regulatory oversight, and changes in applicable regulatory requirements, including any adoption or modification of laws or regulations relating to the Internet, could adversely affect our business.

 

Our operations, particularly our DBS operations and our wireless spectrum licenses, are subject to significant government regulation and oversight, primarily by the FCC and, to a certain extent, by Congress, other federal agencies and foreign, state and local authorities.  Depending upon the circumstances, noncompliance with legislation or regulations promulgated by these authorities could result in the limitations on, or suspension or revocation of, our licenses or registrations, the termination or loss of contracts or the imposition of contractual damages, civil fines or criminal penalties, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  Furthermore, the adoption or modification of laws or regulations relating to video programming, satellite services, wireless telecommunications, broadband, the Internet or other areas of our business could limit or otherwise adversely affect the manner in which we currently conduct our business, including our Sling TV services.  If we become subject to new regulations or legislation or new interpretations of existing regulations or legislation that govern Internet network neutrality, for example, we may be required to incur additional expenses or alter our business model.  The manner in which legislation governing Internet network neutrality may be interpreted and enforced cannot be precisely determined, which in turn could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  See regulatory disclosures under the caption “Item 1.  Business — Government Regulations” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information.

 

51


 

Our business depends on FCC licenses that can expire or be revoked or modified and applications for FCC licenses that may not be granted.

 

If the FCC were to cancel, revoke, suspend, restrict, significantly condition, or fail to renew any of our licenses or authorizations, or fail to grant our applications for FCC licenses that we may file from time to time, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  Specifically, loss of a frequency authorization would reduce the amount of spectrum available to us, potentially reducing the amount of services available to our DISH branded pay-TV subscribers.  The materiality of such a loss of authorizations would vary based upon, among other things, the location of the frequency used or the availability of replacement spectrum.  In addition, Congress often considers and enacts legislation that affects us and FCC proceedings to implement the Communications Act and enforce its regulations are ongoing.  We cannot predict the outcomes of these legislative or regulatory proceedings or their effect on our business.

 

We are subject to digital HD “carry-one, carry-all” requirements that cause capacity constraints.

 

To provide any full-power local broadcast signal in any market, we are required to retransmit all qualifying broadcast signals in that market (“carry-one, carry-all”), including the carriage of full-power broadcasters’ HD signals in markets in which we elect to provide local channels in HD.  The carriage of additional HD signals on our DISH branded pay-TV service could cause us to experience significant capacity constraints and prevent us from carrying additional popular national programs and/or carrying those national programs in HD. 

 

Our business, investor confidence in our financial results and stock price may be adversely affected if our internal controls are not effective.

 

We periodically evaluate and test our internal control over financial reporting to satisfy the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Our management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2015.  If in the future we are unable to report that our internal control over financial reporting is effective (or if our auditors do not agree with our assessment of the effectiveness of, or are unable to express an opinion on, our internal control over financial reporting), investors, customers and business partners could lose confidence in the accuracy of our financial reports, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our business, investor confidence in our financial results may weaken, and our stock price may suffer.

 

We may face other risks described from time to time in periodic and current reports we file with the SEC.

 

Item 1B.   UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

 

None.

 

52


 

Item 2.   PROPERTIES

 

The following table sets forth certain information concerning our principal properties related to our business segments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leased From

 

Description/Use/Location

    

Segment(s) 
Using Property

    

Owned

    

EchoStar (1)

    

Other
Third Party

 

Corporate headquarters, Englewood, Colorado

 

DISH/Wireless

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

Customer call center and general offices, Roseland, New Jersey

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Alvin, Texas

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Bluefield, West Virginia

 

DISH

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, Christiansburg, Virginia

 

DISH

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, College Point, New York

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Harlingen, Texas

 

DISH

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, Hilliard, Ohio

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Littleton, Colorado

 

DISH

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

Customer call center, Phoenix, Arizona

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Thornton, Colorado

 

DISH

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call, warehouse, service, and remanufacturing center, El Paso, Texas

 

DISH

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Service and remanufacturing center, Englewood, Colorado

 

DISH

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

Service and remanufacturing center, Spartanburg, South Carolina

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Warehouse and distribution center, Denver, Colorado

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Warehouse and distribution center, Sacramento, California

 

DISH

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Warehouse and distribution center, Atlanta, Georgia

 

DISH

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Warehouse, Denver, Colorado

 

DISH

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1)

See Note 19 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information  on our Related Party Transactions with EchoStar.

 

In addition to the principal properties listed above, we operate numerous facilities for, among other things, our in-home service operations strategically located in regions throughout the United States.  Furthermore, we own or lease capacity on 12 satellites, which are a major component of our DISH branded pay-TV service.  See further information under “Item 1. Business — Satellites” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Item 3.   LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

 

See Note 15  “Commitments and Contingencies - Litigation” in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for information regarding certain legal proceedings in which we are involved.

 

Item 4.   MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

 

Not applicable.

 

53


 

PART II

 

Item 5.   MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

 

Market Price of and Dividends on the Registrant’s Common Equity and Related Stockholder Matters

 

Market Information.  Our Class A common stock is quoted on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “DISH.”  The high and low closing sale prices of our Class A common stock during 2015 and 2014 on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (as reported by Nasdaq) are set forth below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015

    

High

    

Low

 

First Quarter

 

$

78.31

 

$

68.46

 

Second Quarter

 

 

75.51

 

 

65.92

 

Third Quarter

 

 

69.25

 

 

56.36

 

Fourth Quarter

 

 

65.07

 

 

57.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014

    

High

    

Low

 

First Quarter

 

$

62.42

 

$

54.10

 

Second Quarter

 

 

65.64

 

 

56.23

 

Third Quarter

 

 

66.71

 

 

61.87

 

Fourth Quarter

 

 

79.41

 

 

57.96

 

 

As of February 12, 2016, there were approximately 7,806 holders of record of our Class A common stock, not including stockholders who beneficially own Class A common stock held in nominee or street name.  As of February 12, 2016,  204,644,588 of the 238,435,208 outstanding shares of our Class B common stock were beneficially held by Charles W. Ergen, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and the remaining 33,790,620 were held in trusts established by Mr. Ergen for the benefit of his family.  There is currently no trading market for our Class B common stock.

 

Dividends.  While we currently do not intend to declare dividends on our common stock, we may elect to do so from time to time.  Payment of any future dividends will depend upon our earnings and capital requirements, restrictions in our debt facilities, and other factors the Board of Directors considers appropriate.  We currently intend to retain our earnings, if any, to support future growth and expansion, although we may repurchase shares of our common stock from time to time.  See further information under “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Securities Authorized for Issuance Under Equity Compensation Plans.  See “Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers

 

The following table provides information regarding purchases of our Class A common stock made by us for the period from October 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Number of

 

Maximum Approximate

 

 

 

Total

 

 

 

 

Shares Purchased

 

Dollar Value of Shares

 

 

 

Number of

 

Average

 

as Part of Publicly

 

that May Yet be

 

 

 

Shares

 

Price Paid

 

Announced Plans

 

Purchased Under the

 

Period

    

Purchased

    

per Share

    

or Programs

    

Plans or Programs (1)

 

 

 

(In thousands, except share data)

 

October 1, 2015 - October 31, 2015

 

 —

 

$

 —

 

 —

 

$

1,000,000

 

November 1, 2015 - November 30, 2015

 

 —

 

$

 —

 

 —

 

$

1,000,000

 

December 1, 2015 - December 31, 2015

 

 —

 

$

 —

 

 —

 

$

1,000,000

 

Total

 

 —

 

$

 —

 

 —

 

$

1,000,000

 

54


 

 

(1)

Our Board of Directors previously authorized stock repurchases of up to $1.0 billion of our outstanding Class A common stock through and including December 31, 2015.  On November 3, 2015, our Board of Directors extended this authorization such that we are currently authorized to repurchase up to $1.0 billion of our outstanding Class A common stock through and including December 31, 2016.    Purchases under our repurchase program may be made through open market purchases, privately negotiated transactions, or Rule 10b5-1 trading plans, subject to market conditions and other factors.  We may elect not to purchase the maximum amount of shares allowable under this program and we may also enter into additional share repurchase programs authorized by our Board of Directors.

 

Item 6.   SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

 

The selected consolidated financial data as of and for each of the five years ended December 31, 2015 have been derived from, and are qualified by reference to our consolidated financial statements.  As of December 31, 2013, Blockbuster had ceased material operations.  The results of Blockbuster are presented for all periods as discontinued operations in our consolidated financial statements.  See Note 9 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information regarding our discontinued operations.

 

Certain prior year amounts have been reclassified to conform to the current year presentation.  See further information under “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Explanation of Key Metrics and Other Items” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

This data should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and related notes thereto for the three years ended December 31, 2015, and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of December 31,

 

Balance Sheet Data

    

2015

    

2014

    

2013

    

2012

    

2011

 

 

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Cash, cash equivalents and current marketable investment securities

 

$

1,611,069

 

$

9,236,241

 

$

9,739,404

 

$

7,205,379

 

$

2,001,917

 

Total assets

 

 

22,886,710

 

 

22,045,541

 

 

20,192,117

 

 

17,229,902

 

 

11,346,073

 

Long-term debt and capital lease obligations (including current portion)

 

 

13,755,925

 

 

14,427,526

 

 

13,597,237

 

 

11,831,745

 

 

7,441,620

 

Total stockholders’ equity (deficit)

 

 

2,747,787

 

 

2,012,134

 

 

997,005

 

 

71,628

 

 

(419,003)

 

 

 

55


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Years Ended December 31,

 

Statements of Operations Data

    

2015

    

2014

    

2013

    

2012

    

2011

 

 

 

 

(In thousands, except per share amounts)

 

Total revenue

 

$

15,068,901

 

$

14,643,387

 

$

13,904,865

 

$

13,181,334

 

$

13,074,063

 

Total costs and expenses

 

 

13,736,505

 

 

12,818,936

 

 

12,556,686

 

 

11,922,976

 

 

10,145,080

 

Operating income (loss)

 

$

1,332,396

 

$

1,824,451

 

$

1,348,179

 

$

1,258,358

 

$

2,928,983

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Income (loss) from continuing operations

 

$

769,276

 

$