10-K 1 dish-20171231x10k.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, 2017

 

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, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

 

 

 

Large accelerated filer ☒

 

Accelerated filer ☐

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer ☐
(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)

 

Smaller reporting company ☐

 

Emerging growth company ☐  

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  ☐

 

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, 2017, the aggregate market value of Class A common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was $13.8 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 7, 2018, the registrant’s outstanding common stock consisted of 228,040,482 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 2018 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference in Part III.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

PART I

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

Item 1. 

Business

1

Item 1A. 

Risk Factors

25

Item 1B. 

Unresolved Staff Comments

58

Item 2. 

Properties

59

Item 3. 

Legal Proceedings

60

Item 4. 

Mine Safety Disclosures

60

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

Item 5. 

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

60

Item 6. 

Selected Financial Data

61

Item 7. 

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

63

Item 7A. 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

91

Item 8. 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

93

Item 9. 

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

93

Item 9A. 

Controls and Procedures

93

Item 9B. 

Other Information

94

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

Item 10. 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

94

Item 11. 

Executive Compensation

94

Item 12. 

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

94

Item 13. 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

94

Item 14. 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

94

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

Item 15. 

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

95

Item 16. 

Form 10-K Summary

102

 

 

 

 

Signatures

103

 

Index to Consolidated Financial Statements

F-1

 

 

 

 

 


 

DISCLOSURE REGARDING 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, a wholly-owned, indirect subsidiary of DISH Network, and its subsidiaries.

 

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

 

·

As the pay-TV industry has matured and bundled offers combining video, broadband and/or wireless services have become more prevalent and competitive, we face intense and increasing competition from providers of video, broadband and/or wireless services, 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 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/or 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.

 

·

If government regulations relating to the Internet change, we may need to alter the manner in which we conduct our Sling TV business, and/or incur greater operating expenses to comply with those regulations.

 

·

Changes in how network operators handle and charge for access to data that travels across their networks could adversely impact our business.

 

·

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

 

Operational and Service Delivery Risks

 

·

If our operational performance and customer satisfaction were to deteriorate, our subscriber activations and our subscriber churn rate may be negatively impacted, which could in turn adversely affect our revenue.

 

·

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

i


 

 

·

Programming expenses are increasing and may 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 subscriber activations and our subscriber churn rate may be negatively impacted.

 

·

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

 

·

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 to provide the vast majority of our satellite transponder capacity and other related services to us.  Our business would be adversely affected if EchoStar ceases to provide these services to us and we are unable to obtain suitable replacement 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.

 

·

We rely 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 DISH TV services that represent a meaningful percentage of our total gross new DISH TV subscriber activations.

 

·

We have limited satellite capacity and failures or reduced capacity could adversely affect our DISH TV services.

 

·

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.

 

ii


 

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.

 

·

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.

 

·

Our wireless spectrum licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements and the failure to meet such build-out requirements may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

·

We rely on highly skilled personnel for our wireless business and, if we are unable to hire and retain key personnel or hire qualified personnel then our wireless business may be adversely affected.

 

·

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.

 

·

We have substantial debt outstanding and may incur additional debt.

 

·

The conditional conversion features of our 3 3/8% Convertible Notes due 2026 (the “Convertible Notes due 2026”) and our 2 3/8% Convertible Notes due 2024 (the “Convertible Notes due 2024,” and collectively with the Convertible Notes due 2026, the “Convertible Notes”), if triggered, may adversely affect our financial condition.

 

·

The convertible note hedge and warrant transactions that we entered into in connection with the offering of the Convertible Notes due 2026 may affect the value of the Convertible Notes due 2026 and our Class A common stock.

 

·

We are subject to counterparty risk with respect to the convertible note hedge 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.

 

·

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.

 

Legal and Regulatory Risks

 

·

The rulings in the Telemarketing litigation requiring us to pay up to an aggregate amount of $341 million and imposing certain injunctive relief against us, if upheld, would have a material adverse effect on our cash, cash equivalents and marketable investment securities balances and our business operations.

 

·

Our business may be materially affected by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “Tax Reform Act”).  Negative or unexpected tax consequences could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

iii


 

 

·

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

 

·

We are, and may become, 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 (“SEC”).

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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 fourth 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 operate two primary business segments.

 

Pay-TV

 

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, 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 (“DISH TV”).  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”).  As of December 31, 2017, we had 13.242 million Pay-TV subscribers in the United States, including 11.030 million DISH TV subscribers and 2.212 million Sling TV subscribers. 

 

In addition, we have historically offered broadband services under the dishNET™ brand, which includes satellite broadband services that utilize advanced technology and high-powered satellites launched by Hughes Communications, Inc. (“Hughes”) and ViaSat, Inc. (“ViaSat”) and wireline broadband services.  However, as we move our broadband business focus from wholesale to authorized representative arrangements, we are generally no longer marketing dishNET broadband services and our broadband subscribers will decline through customer attrition.  Generally, under these authorized representative arrangements, we will receive certain payments for each broadband service activation generated and installation performed, and we will not incur subscriber acquisition costs for these activations.  For example, during the first quarter 2017, we transitioned our wholesale arrangement with Hughes to an authorized representative arrangement and entered into a master service agreement (the “MSA”) with Hughes Network Systems, LLC (“HNS”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hughes.  See “Hughes Broadband Master Services Agreement” in Note 18 to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K on our Related Party Transactions with EchoStar for further information.

 

As a result of the completion of the Share Exchange with EchoStar, described below, we also design, develop and distribute receiver systems and provide digital broadcast operations, including satellite uplinking/downlinking, transmission and other services to third-party pay-TV providers.  See Note 2 and 18 to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

Wireless

 

Since 2008, we have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets and made over $10 billion in non-controlling investments in certain entities, for a total of over $21 billion.  In March 2017, we notified the FCC that we plan to deploy a next-generation 5G-capable network, focused on supporting narrowband Internet of Things (“IoT”).  The first phase of our network deployment will be completed by March 2020, with subsequent phases to be completed thereafter.  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. 

 

These wireless spectrum licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  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

1


 

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.  In addition, as we consider our options for the commercialization of our wireless spectrum, we will incur significant additional expenses and will have to make significant investments related to, among other things, research and development, wireless testing and wireless network infrastructure.  See Note 14 “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.

 

Business Strategy – Pay-TV

 

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 our Pay-TV services as providing our subscribers with a better “price-to-value” relationship than those available from other subscription television service providers.

 

·

Products with the Best Technology.  We offer a wide selection of local and national 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.  We offer several Sling TV services, including Sling Orange (our single-stream Sling domestic service), Sling Blue (our multi-stream Sling domestic service), Sling International, Sling Latino, among others, as well as add-on extras, pay-per-view events and a cloud based DVR service.

 

·

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 United States because we seek to offer the lowest everyday prices available to consumers after introductory promotions expire. For example, during the third quarter 2016, we launched our Flex Pack skinny bundle with a core package of programming consisting of more than 50 channels and the choice of one of eight themed add-on channel packs, which include local broadcast networks and kids, national and regional sports and general entertainment programming.  Subscribers can also add or remove additional channel packs to best suit their entertainment needs.  As another example, our Sling Orange service and our Sling Blue service are two of the lowest priced live-linear online streaming services in the industry.

 

Products and Services

 

DISH TV services.  We offer a wide selection of video services under the DISH TV 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 270 channels in 28 languages.

 

In addition, we offer our DISH TV subscribers streaming access through DISH On Demand®  to thousands of movies and TV shows via their TV or Internet-connected tablets, smartphones and computers.

 

Our DISH 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 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 multiple streaming-capable devices including streaming media devices, TVs, tablets, computers, game consoles and smart phones.  We offer Sling International, Sling Latino and Sling domestic video programming services.  Our domestic Sling TV services have a

2


 

single-stream service branded Sling Orange and a multi-stream service branded Sling Blue, which includes, among other things, the ability to stream on up to three devices simultaneously.  We also offer add-on extras, pay-per-view events and a cloud based DVR service.

 

Technology.  Our DISH 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.  In December 2016, Sling TV launched a cloud DVR program available for customers who subscribe to Sling Orange and/or Sling Blue using multiple streaming-capable devices.  In January 2017, we launched AirTV Player, a new 4K Android TV-based streaming device, and AirTV Pro Install, a service that offers expertise, installation and setup of over-the-air (“OTA”) antennas.  We also design, develop and distribute a wide range of video delivery products and related technologies to third parties. 

 

Broadband.  In addition to our wide selection of pay-TV programming and award-winning technology, we have historically marketed broadband services under the dishNET™ brand.  This service utilizes advanced technology and high-powered satellites launched by Hughes and ViaSat to provide broadband coverage nationwide and wireline broadband services as a competitive local exchange carrier to consumers in certain areas.  However, as we move our broadband business focus from wholesale to authorized representative arrangements, we are generally no longer marketing dishNET broadband services and our broadband subscribers will decline through customer attrition.  Generally, under these authorized representative arrangements, we will receive certain payments for each broadband service activation generated and installation performed, and we will not incur subscriber acquisition costs for these activations.  For example, during the first quarter 2017, we transitioned our wholesale arrangement with Hughes to an authorized representative arrangement and entered into the MSA with HNS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hughes, pursuant to which we, among other things: (i) have the right, but not the obligation, to market, promote and solicit orders for the Hughes broadband satellite service and related equipment; and (ii) install Hughes service equipment with respect to activations generated by us.  For example, HNS will make certain payments to us for each Hughes service activation generated and installation performed by us, and we will not incur subscriber acquisition costs for these subscribers.  See Note 18 to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K on our Related Party Transactions with EchoStar for further information. 

 

Business Strategy – Wireless

 

Wireless

 

Since 2008, we have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets and made over $10 billion in non-controlling investments in certain entities, for a total of over $21 billion, as described further below.  In March 2017, we notified the FCC that we plan to deploy a next-generation 5G-capable network, focused on supporting narrowband Internet of Things (“IoT”).  The first phase of our network deployment will be completed by March 2020, with subsequent phases to be completed thereafter.  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. 

 

DISH Network Spectrum

 

We have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets.  These wireless spectrum licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  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.  In addition, as we consider our options for the commercialization of our wireless spectrum, we will incur significant additional expenses and will

3


 

have to make significant investments related to, among other things, research and development, wireless testing and wireless network infrastructure.  See Note 14 “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.

 

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 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 consolidate these entities into our financial statements.  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, comply with regulations applicable to such AWS-3 Licenses, and make any potential payments related to the re-auction of AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC.  Depending upon the nature and scope of such commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, regulatory compliance, and potential re-auction payments, 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 14 “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.

 

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.  Our principal digital broadcast operations facilities are located in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Gilbert, Arizona.  We also have multiple regional and micro digital broadcast operations facilities 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.

 

Satellites.  Our DISH 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.

 

4


 

Most of our DISH 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 DBS receiver systems for our DISH TV services 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 may 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.

 

For our Sling TV services, we encrypt programming content and use digital rights management software to, among other things, prevent unauthorized access to our programming content.

 

Content Delivery Networks.  The majority of Sling TV programming content is delivered to our backhaul and uplink facilities via the internet, fiber or satellite for processing and encryption.  Our Sling TV programming content is distributed from our backhaul and uplink facilities, or directly from the content provider, to content delivery network providers for delivery to consumers via the internet.

 

Internet Connection.  Our Sling TV services require an Internet connection and are available through multiple streaming-capable devices.  Certain of our digital set-top boxes require an internet connection to enable full functionality, including streaming access through DISH On Demand, access to dishanywhere.com and other applications. 

 

Distribution Channels

 

While we offer receiver systems and programming through direct sales channels, a meaningful percentage of our gross new DISH TV 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 offer our Sling TV services through direct sales channels and third-party marketing agreements.

 

Competition

 

Our business has historically focused on providing pay-TV services.  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 other streaming and mobile devices, including wireless service providers.  In recent years, the traditional pay-TV industry has matured, and industry consolidation and convergence has created competitors with greater scale and multiple product/service offerings.  These developments, among others, have contributed to intense and increasing competition, and we expect such competition to continue.

 

Our Pay-TV services continue to face intense competition from traditional satellite television providers, cable companies and large telecommunication companies such as AT&T Inc. (“AT&T”), Comcast Corp. (“Comcast”), Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter”), Verizon Communications, Inc. (“Verizon”) and others, some of whom have greater financial, marketing and other resources than we do.  Some of these companies also have significant investments in companies that provide programming content.  In recent years, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and alliances

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among cable television providers, telecommunications companies and others have created, among other things, greater scale and financial leverage for the combined companies and increased the availability of bundled offerings combining video, broadband and/or wireless services.  For example, in 2015 AT&T acquired DirecTV, our direct competitor and the largest satellite TV provider in the United States, which has an OTT service, DirecTV Now, that competes directly with our Sling TV services.  Furthermore, AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, among other things, allows DirecTV 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.  In some cases, certain competitors have been able to potentially subsidize the price of video services with the price of other bundled services, particularly broadband services. 

 

We also face increasing competition from content providers and other companies who distribute video directly to consumers over the Internet.  These content providers and other companies, as well as traditional satellite television providers, cable companies and large telecommunication companies, are rapidly increasing their Internet-based video offerings.  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.  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.  Video content distributed over the Internet includes services with live linear television programming such as DirecTV Now, Sony PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Philo TV single programmer offerings such as HBO GO, CBS All Access, STARZ and SHOWTIME and offerings of large libraries of on-demand content, including in certain cases original content, by companies such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Verizon. 

 

In addition to the traditional competition we have faced, new technologies have been, and will likely continue to be, developed that further increase the number of companies with whom we compete for video subscribers.  For example, we face increasing competition from wireless telecommunications providers who offer mobile video offerings, other telephone companies who are finding ways to deliver video programming services over their wireline facilities or in a bundle with other multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”), including among others, AT&T, and fiber-based networks including Google Fiber.

 

For further information see “Item 1A – Risk Factors – Competition and Economic Risks – As the pay-TV industry has matured and bundled offers combining video, broadband and/or wireless services have become more prevalent and competitive, we face intense and increasing competition from providers of video, broadband and/or wireless services, which may require us to further increase subscriber acquisition and retention spending or accept lower subscriber activations and higher subscriber churn.” and “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.”

 

Acquisition of New Subscribers

 

We incur significant upfront costs to acquire subscribers, including advertising, independent third-party 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 TV services, 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.  Subscriber acquisition costs for Sling TV subscribers are significantly lower than those for DISH TV subscribers.  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 TV and Sling TV, visit our websites or contact independent third-party retailers.

 

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

6


 

independent third-party retailer continuously provides customer service to our DISH TV subscribers; and (iii) the customer continuously subscribes to qualified programming.

 

Third-Party Marketing Agreements.  We have agreements with third parties to market, promote and solicit orders for our Sling TV services generally in connection with the purchase of a streaming-capable device.  We pay a fee for each Sling TV subscriber activated under these agreements.

 

Equipment.  We incur significant upfront costs to provide our new DISH TV subscribers with in-home equipment, including advanced HD and DVR receivers, which most of our new DISH 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 TV subscribers.

 

New Customer Promotions.  We often offer our new DISH TV subscribers certain programming at no additional charge and/or promotional pricing during a commitment period.  We often offer our new Sling TV subscribers free trials and/or streaming-capable devices at no additional charge and/or promotional pricing.  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 DISH TV SAC metric.  

 

Customer Retention

 

We incur significant costs to retain our existing DISH 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.  As our Sling TV services have no contract or commitment period, we have generally not provided Sling TV subscribers with retention credits, promotional pricing, special offers or discounts.  Our retention efforts for Sling TV customers generally focuses on customer engagement and increased quality of our Sling TV services. 

 

Customer Service

 

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

 

Installation and Smart Home Service Operations.  High-quality installations, upgrades, and Smart Home services and repairs are critical to providing DISH TV subscribers with quality customer service.  Such services and repairs are performed by both DISH Network employees and a network of independent contractors and includes, among other things, TV mounting, appliance repair, set-up and installation of wireless networks, surround sound systems and home theaters, priority technical support, replacement equipment, cabling and power surge repairs, and installation and setup of OTA antennas.

 

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 TV services and dishNET branded broadband services and Recurly, Inc.’s software system for the Sling TV services.

 

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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 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 by certain trusts established by Mr. Ergen for the benefit of his family.  EchoStar provides the vast majority of our satellite transponder capacity and is a key supplier of other related services to us.  Furthermore, we have an authorized representative arrangement with Hughes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of EchoStar, under the MSA which offers satellite broadband Internet services to customers.  See “Item 1A. Risk Factors” and Note 18 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

Share Exchange.  On February 28, 2017, we and EchoStar and certain of our respective subsidiaries completed the transactions contemplated by the Share Exchange Agreement (the “Share Exchange Agreement”) that was previously entered into on January 31, 2017 (the “Share Exchange”).  Pursuant to the Share Exchange Agreement, among other things, EchoStar transferred to us certain assets and liabilities of the EchoStar technologies and EchoStar broadcasting businesses, consisting primarily of the businesses that design, develop and distribute digital set-top boxes, provide satellite uplinking services and develop and support streaming video technology, as well as certain investments in joint ventures, spectrum licenses, real estate properties and EchoStar’s ten percent non-voting interest in Sling TV Holding L.L.C. (the “Transferred Businesses”), and in exchange, we transferred to EchoStar the 6,290,499 shares of preferred tracking stock issued by EchoStar (the “EchoStar Tracking Stock”) and 81.128 shares of preferred tracking stock issued by Hughes Satellite Systems Corporation, a subsidiary of EchoStar (the “HSSC Tracking Stock,” and together with the EchoStar Tracking Stock, collectively, the “Tracking Stock”), that tracked the residential retail satellite broadband business of HNS.  In connection with the Share Exchange, we and EchoStar and certain of its subsidiaries entered into certain agreements covering, among other things, tax matters, employee matters, intellectual property matters and the provision of transitional services.  As the Share Exchange was a transaction between entities that are under common control, accounting rules require that our Consolidated Financial Statements include the results of the Transferred Businesses for all periods presented, including periods prior to the completion of the Share Exchange.  See Note 18 to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K on our Related Party Transactions with EchoStar for further information.

 

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SATELLITES

 

Pay-TV Satellites.  Most of our DISH 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 12 satellites in geostationary orbit approximately 22,300 miles above the equator as 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

 

EchoStar XVIII

 

June 2016

 

61.5

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leased from EchoStar (1):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EchoStar VII (2)

 

February 2002

 

119

 

June 2018

 

EchoStar IX

 

August 2003

 

121

 

Month to month

 

EchoStar X (2)

 

February 2006

 

110

 

February 2021

 

EchoStar XI (2)

 

July 2008

 

110

 

September 2021

 

EchoStar XIV (2)

 

March 2010

 

119

 

February 2023

 

EchoStar XVI (3)

 

November 2012

 

61.5

 

January 2023

 

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 18 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)

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.

(3)

We have the option to renew this lease for an additional five-year period.

 

Satellite Anomalies

 

Operation of our DISH TV services requires that we have adequate satellite transmission capacity for the programming that we offer.  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

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satellites were to fail.  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 therefore, we will bear the risk associated with any uninsured launch or in-orbit satellite failures.  Recent developments with respect to certain of our satellites are discussed below.

 

Leased Satellites

 

EchoStar X.  In December 2017, EchoStar informed us that EchoStar X experienced anomalies resulting in the loss of some electrical power available from its solar arrays. As a result, EchoStar X is currently operating at 75% of its designed satellite capacity.  Pursuant to our satellite lease agreement with EchoStar, we are entitled to a reduction in our monthly recurring lease payments in the event of a partial loss of satellite capacity or complete failure of the satellite.  This satellite is currently still in service at the 110 degree orbital location.  There can be no assurance that future anomalies will not further impact the commercial operation of EchoStar X.  Based on the redundancy designed within our satellite fleet, we generally have in-orbit satellite capacity sufficient to transmit our existing channels and some backup capacity to recover the transmission of certain critical programming.    

 

AWS-4 Satellites.  We own two in-orbit AWS-4 satellites (D1 and T1), as detailed in the table below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Degree

 

Estimated

 

 

 

Launch

 

Orbital

 

 Useful Life

 

Satellites

    

Date

    

Location

    

(Years)

 

Owned:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T1

 

July 2009

 

111.1

 

14.25

 

D1

 

April 2008

 

92.85

 

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Note 8 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on our satellites.

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GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS

 

Our operations, particularly our Pay-TV 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 on 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.

 

Furthermore, the Administration and any government policy changes it may institute, which may be substantial, could increase regulatory uncertainty.  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.  In addition, the manner in which regulations or legislation in these areas 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 10-12 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 build-out requirements in a given license area may result in acceleration of other build-out requirements or in the modification, cancellation, or non-renewal of licenses.  For further information related to our licenses and build-out requirements related to our wireless spectrum licenses see “Item 1A.  Risk Factors –  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.”

 

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 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.

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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 that may be cumbersome.

 

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 Ka frequencies at the 103 degree orbital location.

 

Duration of our DBS 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.  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.

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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, respectively.  These 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.

 

Interference from Other Services Sharing Satellite Spectrum.  The FCC has adopted rules that allow non-geostationary orbit (“NGSO”) FSS satellites to operate on a co-primary basis in the same frequency band as our DBS and geostationary orbit (“GSO”) FSS satellites.  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.

 

OneWeb LLC (“OneWeb”) and others have filed requests with the FCC for authority to launch and operate, or provide service from, NGSO satellite systems using a variety of spectrum bands, including the 12.2-12.7 GHz band, which we use for our DBS service, and where we also have certain licenses to provide one-way terrestrial MVDDS service.  In June 2017, the FCC approved OneWeb’s request for authority to launch and operate, or provide service from, such systems.  If these systems are launched and put into operation, there can be no assurance that they will not interfere with our DBS operations and adversely affect our business or that they will not hinder our ability to provide MVDDS service.

 

Satellite Competition from Additional Slots and Interference.  AT&T, through 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 United States 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 United States 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 our DISH TV services 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.  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.

 

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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 effective 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 United States 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 may not be technically feasible or may require potentially costly modifications to our set-top boxes and operations.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of this FCC proceeding.

 

In 2016, the FCC adopted 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 third-party devices.  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 TV business by, among other things, requiring us to deploy additional hardware or software to enable our DISH TV services to operate with third-party devices.  In February 2017, the FCC closed this rule making proceeding and no regulations were adopted.  However, we cannot be certain that the FCC will not open a new proceeding in the future to pursue similar regulations.

 

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, 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.

 

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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.”  In 2016, the Chairman of the FCC announced that the FCC would not proceed at that time to adopt additional rules governing good faith negotiations for retransmission consent.  STELAR 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 these restrictions on broadcasters will result in more effective retransmission consent negotiations.

 

ATSC 3.0.  In April 2016, the broadcast industry petitioned the FCC to authorize the use of the “Next Generation TV” broadcast television standard, ATSC 3.0.  In November 2017, the FCC authorized television broadcasters to deploy the ATSC 3.0 standard on a voluntary basis.  We cannot predict the effect that supporting this new standard could have on equipment costs, carriage obligations or the retransmission consent process. 

 

Media Ownership Rules.  Also in 2016, the broadcast industry petitioned the FCC to relax its media ownership rules, which, among other things, limit the number of commonly owned TV stations per market and restrict newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership and radio/TV cross-ownership.  In November 2017, the FCC voted to: (i) eliminate the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule; (ii) eliminate the radio/television cross-ownership rule; (iii) relax the local television ownership rules to eliminate certain restrictions and modify others; and (iv) eliminate the attribution rule for television joint-sales agreements.  In December 2017, the FCC initiated a rulemaking proceeding seeking comment on changes to the national television multiple-ownership rule, including changes that could relax or eliminate the current limits that prevent entities from owning or controlling television stations that, in the aggregate, reach more than 39 percent of the television households in the country.  If the FCC were to relax or eliminate some or all of the national television multiple-ownership rule, it could increase the negotiating leverage that broadcasters hold in retransmission consent negotiations.  We cannot predict whether the FCC will further change any of its media ownership rules or the effect that any changes to the media ownership rules could have on our future 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 TV services could cause us to experience significant capacity constraints and prevent us from carrying additional popular national channels and/or carrying those national channels 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 United States 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, 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 that 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.

 

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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 Inc. (“Time Warner Cable”), which was acquired by Charter in 2016, expired as previously scheduled.  These developments may adversely affect our ability to obtain Liberty’s and Charter’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 expired in January 2018, and we can no longer rely on these protections.  We cannot predict the practical effect of the expiration of these conditions which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition or otherwise disrupt our business.

 

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.

 

Open Internet (also known as “Net Neutrality”).  In 2015, the FCC adopted Open Internet rules, which applied to both fixed and mobile broadband access providers and prohibited them, among other things, from blocking or throttling traffic, from paid prioritization, and from unreasonably interfering with, or disadvantaging, consumers’ or content providers’ access to the Internet.  In addition, because the FCC reclassified broadband access providers as common carriers, these providers were subject to the general common carrier requirements of reasonableness and nondiscrimination.  The rules were affirmed by a panel of the D.C. Circuit.  A number of broadband access providers and their associations have filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  In December 2017, the FCC reversed course and voted to reclassify broadband access providers as information service providers, instead of common carriers.  The FCC also voted to eliminate the majority of the Open Internet rules, leaving only certain ISP transparency requirements in place.  The FCC’s decision is being challenged by various parties.  We cannot predict the outcome or timing of these proceedings or how the FCC will implement and enforce the remaining Open Internet rules. 

 

To the extent that network operators implement usage based pricing, including meaningful bandwidth caps, or otherwise try to monetize access to their networks by data providers, we could incur greater operating expenses and our Sling TV subscriber count could be negatively impacted.  Furthermore, to the extent network operators create tiers of Internet access service and either charge us for or prohibit us from being available through these tiers, our Sling TV business could be negatively impacted.  We cannot predict with any certainty the impact to our Sling TV business resulting from changes in how network operators handle and charge for access to data that travels across their networks. 

 

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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.  In 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.  These conditions expired in January 2018, and we can no longer rely on these protections.  We cannot predict the practical effect of the expiration of these conditions which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition or otherwise disrupt our business.

 

Charter/Time Warner Cable.  In May 2016, the FCC and the Department of Justice approved a merger transaction between Charter, Time Warner Cable, and Advance/Newhouse Partnership.  The FCC conditioned its approval on, among other things, Charter not imposing data caps or usage-based pricing for its residential broadband service and a requirement that Charter provide settlement-free interconnection.  These conditions last for seven years, with Charter having the option after four years to petition to shorten the term to five years.  It is uncertain how these conditions may be interpreted or enforced by the FCC; therefore, we cannot predict the practical effect of these conditions.  In addition, as these conditions are currently set to expire in 2023, 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.

 

FCC Regulation of Wireless Spectrum

 

Since 2008, we have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets and made over $10 billion in non-controlling investments in certain entities, for a total of over $21 billion, as described further below.

 

DISH Network Spectrum

 

We have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets.

 

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.  These licenses are subject to certain build-out requirements.  By March 2020, we must provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 70% of the population in each of our E Block license areas (the “700 MHz Build-Out Requirement”).  If the 700 MHz Build-Out Requirement is not met with respect to any particular E Block license area, our authorization may terminate for the geographic portion of that license area in which we are not providing service.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in March 2020 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

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.

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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”).  These licenses are subject to certain build-out requirements.  By March 2020, we are 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 Build-Out Requirement”).  If the AWS-4 Build-Out Requirement is not met with respect to any particular individual license, our terrestrial authorization for that license area 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 terrestrial downlink operations.  On June 1, 2016, we notified the FCC that we had elected to use our AWS-4 uplink spectrum for terrestrial downlink operations, and effective June 7, 2016, the FCC modified our AWS-4 licenses, resulting in all 40 MHz of our AWS-4 spectrum being designated for terrestrial downlink operations.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in March 2023 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

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 the H Block Interim Build-Out Requirement is not met, 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 do not meet the requirement.  If the H Block Final Build-Out Requirement is not met, our authorization for each H Block license area in which we do not meet the requirement may terminate.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in April 2024 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

 

600 MHz Licenses.  The broadcast incentive auction in the 600 MHz frequency range (“Auction 1000”) began on March 29, 2016 and concluded on March 30, 2017.  On April 13, 2017, the FCC announced that ParkerB.com Wireless L.L.C. (“ParkerB.com”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of DISH Network, was the winning bidder for 486 wireless spectrum licenses (the “600 MHz Licenses”) with aggregate winning bids totaling approximately $6.211 billion.  On April 27, 2017, ParkerB.com filed an application with the FCC to acquire the 600 MHz Licenses.  On July 1, 2016, we paid $1.5 billion to the FCC as a deposit for Auction 1000.  On May 11, 2017, we paid the remaining balance of our winning bids of approximately $4.711 billion.  On June 14, 2017, the FCC issued an order granting ParkerB.com’s application to acquire the 600 MHz Licenses.

 

The 600 MHz Licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  By June 2023, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer wireless service to at least 40% of the population in each area covered by an individual 600 MHz License (the “600 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By June 2029, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer wireless service to at least 75% of the population in each area covered by an individual 600 MHz License (the “600 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If the 600 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement is not met, the 600 MHz License term and the 600 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by two years (from June 2029 to June 2027) for each 600 MHz License area in which we do not meet the requirement.  If the 600 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement is not met, our authorization for each 600 MHz License area in which we do not meet the requirement may terminate.  In addition, certain broadcasters will have up to 39 months (ending July 13, 2020) to relinquish their 600 MHz spectrum, which may impact the timing for our ability to commence operations using certain 600 MHz Licenses.  The FCC has issued the 600 MHz Licenses prior to the clearance of the spectrum, and the build-out deadlines are based on the date that the 600 MHz Licenses were issued to us, not the date that the spectrum is cleared.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in June 2029 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

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MVDDS Licenses.  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.  Our MVDDS licenses may be terminated, however, if we do not provide substantial service in accordance with the new build-out requirements.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in August 2024 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

In 2016, the MVDDS 5G Coalition, of which we are a member, filed a petition for rulemaking requesting the FCC to consider updating the rules to allow us to provide two-way 5G services using our MVDDS licenses.  We cannot predict when or if the FCC will grant the petition and proceed with a rulemaking.  If the FCC adopts rules that would allow us to provide two-way 5G services using our MVDDS licenses, the requests of OneWeb and others for authority to use the band for service from NGSO satellite systems may hinder our ability to provide 5G services using our MVDDS licenses.

 

LMDS Licenses.  As a result of the completion of the Share Exchange on February 28, 2017, we acquired from EchoStar certain Local Multipoint Distribution Service (“LMDS”) licenses in four markets:  Cheyenne, Kansas City, Phoenix, and San Diego.  The “substantial service” milestone has been met with respect to each of the licenses.  In addition, through the FCC’s Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, a portion of each of our LMDS licenses will be reassigned to the Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service band (27.5-28.35 GHz), which will allow for a more flexible use of the licenses, including, among other things, 5G mobile operations.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in September 2018 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum 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 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 the AWS-3 Interim Build-Out Requirement is not met, 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 Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless do not meet the requirement.  If the AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement is not met, the authorization for each AWS-3 License area in which Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless do not meet the requirement may terminate.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in October 2027 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

See “Item 1A. Risk Factors –  Acquisition and Capital Structure Risks – 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 further information.

 

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.

 

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International Regulation

 

We are subject to regulation by the International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”).  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.

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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 United Nations (“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 with an UN Registry of Space Objects.  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.

 

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.

 

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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 2018 or 2019.  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 2017, 2016 and 2015, see Note 15 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

EMPLOYEES

 

We had approximately 17,000 employees at December 31, 2017, 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 their employment relations with DISH Network.  While we are not currently a party to any collective bargaining agreements, we are presently in the negotiating phase with the union, which could result in a collective bargaining agreement with respect to these two sites.

 

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.

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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

 

64

 

Chairman and Director

 

W. Erik Carlson

 

48

 

President and Chief Executive Officer

 

Thomas A. Cullen

 

58

 

Executive Vice President, Corporate Development

 

James DeFranco

 

65

 

Executive Vice President and Director

 

Vivek Khemka

 

45

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

 

Timothy A. Messner

 

43

 

Executive Vice President and General Counsel

 

Jeffrey L. McSchooler

 

51

 

Executive Vice President, Engineering and Broadcast

 

Brian V. Neylon

 

52

 

Executive Vice President, Group President, DISH TV

 

Paul W. Orban

 

49

 

Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer

 

Warren W. Schlichting

 

56

 

Executive Vice President, Group President, Sling TV

 

David A. Scott

 

44

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

 

Steven E. Swain

 

50

 

Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

 

John W. Swieringa

 

40

 

Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles W. Ergen.  Mr. Ergen is our executive Chairman 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 DISH Network’s President and Chief Executive Officer since December 2017 and oversees all aspects of the company’s DISH TV and Sling TV businesses. Mr. Carlson is a DISH Network veteran of more than two decades, and has held numerous roles throughout the company. Most recently, Mr. Carlson served as President and Chief Operating Officer.  In this role, Mr. Carlson oversaw the company’s day-to-day operations including Human Resources, Operations and Information Technology, Media Sales, Marketing, Programming, Product Management, Acquisition and Retention, and Finance and Accounting organizations. Prior to that, Mr. Carlson managed DISH Network’s In-Home Services, Customer Service Centers, Customer Billing, and Information Technology organizations, as well as Manufacturing, which consists of equipment retrieval and refurbishment operations. Mr. Carlson also served as Senior Vice President of Retail Services and Sales where he managed the company’s indirect sales operations.

 

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 DeFranco.  Mr. 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.

 

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 Network.  From August 2016 to February 2017, Mr. Khemka also served as the President of EchoStar Technologies L.L.C. pursuant to a professional services agreement between DISH Network and EchoStar.  Mr. 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

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various roles of increasing responsibility.  Before joining DISH Network, Mr. Khemka held various positions at Danaher, Motorola and McKinsey & Co.

 

Jeffrey L. McSchooler.  Mr. McSchooler has served as Executive Vice President, Engineering and Broadcast since March 2017 and is responsible for all engineering and broadcast operations for DISH Network.  Mr. McSchooler previously served as Senior Vice President of Engineering and Operations for EchoStar from May 2010 to February 2017.  Mr. McSchooler joined DISH Network in 1994 and has held various roles of increasing responsibility at DISH Network and EchoStar.  Before joining DISH Network, Mr. McSchooler held various positions at GTE Spacenet Corporation, ElectroSpace Systems Inc. and the United States Air Force.

 

Timothy A. Messner.  Mr. Messner has served as Executive Vice President, General Counsel since November 2017 and is responsible for all legal affairs for DISH Network and its subsidiaries.  Since joining DISH Network in August 2004, Mr. Messner has held various positions of increasing responsibility in DISH Network’s legal department.  Most recently, Mr. Messner served as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for DISH Network.

 

Brian V. Neylon.  Mr. Neylon has served as Executive Vice President, Group President, DISH TV since December 2017 and oversees all aspects of the DISH TV services.  Mr. Neylon served as Executive Vice President, Customer Acquisition and Retention from December 2015 to December 2017 and 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 from time to time.

 

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 and tax departments including external financial reporting, technical accounting policy, income tax accounting and compliance 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, Group President, Sling TV since December 2017 and oversees all aspects of the Sling TV services.  Mr. Schlichting served as Executive Vice President, Marketing, Programming, and Media Sales for DISH Network from December 2015 to December 2017 and was responsible for the acquisition and renewal of all programming content, marketing for our DISH TV business and the advertising sales division.  Mr. 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.

 

David A. Scott.  Mr. Scott has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of DISH Network since February 2018 and is responsible for the recruiting, benefits administration, compensation, and leadership and organizational development for DISH Network and its subsidiaries.  Prior to DISH Network, Mr. Scott held various positions at Walmart Inc. from 1997 to 2018, including, among others, Senior Vice President, Talent and Organizational Effectiveness from 2016 to 2018, Senior Vice President, Human Resources from 2014 to 2016, and Vice President, Human Resources from 2011 to 2014.

 

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.

 

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John W. Swieringa.  Mr. Swieringa has served as DISH Network’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since December 2017.  Mr. Swieringa previously served as Executive Vice President, Operations since December 2015 and has had responsibility for the in-home services operations, customer service and billing, information technology, manufacturing and distribution 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 department. 

 

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

 

As the pay-TV industry has matured and bundled offers combining video, broadband and/or wireless services have become more prevalent and competitive, we face intense and increasing competition from providers of video, broadband and/or wireless services, 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.  In recent years, industries have been converging as providers of video, broadband and wireless services compete to deliver the next generation of service offerings.  The pay-TV industry has matured and 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.  These developments, among others, have contributed to intense and increasing competition, which we expect to continue. 

 

With respect to our DISH 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 average monthly revenue per subscriber (“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 on average purchase lower priced programming services than DISH TV subscribers.  Accordingly, an increase in Sling TV subscribers has a negative impact on our Pay-TV ARPU.

 

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 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.  Our gross new DISH TV subscriber activations continue to be negatively impacted by stricter customer acquisition policies (including a focus on attaining higher quality subscribers) and increased competitive pressures, including aggressive marketing, more aggressive retention efforts, bundled discount offers combining broadband, video and/or wireless services and other discounted promotional offers.

 

In addition, MVPDs and other companies such as programmers are offering 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. 

 

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Moreover, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and alliances among cable television providers, telecommunications companies and others may result in, among other things, greater scale and financial leverage and increase the availability of offerings from providers capable of bundling video, broadband and/or wireless services in competition with our services, and may exacerbate the risks described above.  For example, in May 2016, Charter completed its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks (collectively “New Charter”), which created the second largest cable television provider and third largest MPVD in the United States.  This transaction created a duopoly, resulting in two broadband providers, New Charter and Comcast, controlling the geographic areas covering the vast majority of the high-speed broadband homes in the country.  In addition, a significant proportion of New Charter’s high-speed broadband subscribers may lack access to alternative high-speed broadband options.  Further, New Charter may 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 our and other MVPDs’ third-party programming costs.

 

As a result of AT&T’s 2015 acquisition of DirecTV, our direct competitor and the largest satellite TV provider in the United States now 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.  AT&T also has an OTT service, DirecTV Now, that distributes video directly to consumers over the Internet.  The combined company may also be able to, among other things, utilize its increased leverage over third-party content owners and programmers to withhold online rights from us and 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.

 

In addition, in October 2016, AT&T announced its pending acquisition of Time Warner Inc. (“Time Warner”).  In November 2017, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block the merger; the trial is scheduled to begin in March 2018.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of this lawsuit.  If the proposed transaction ultimately is completed, the risks discussed above posed by the AT&T and DirecTV merger will be further exacerbated, as the addition of Time Warner’s media holdings, which include content, such as HBO, TBS, TNT, CNN, and movies, would, among other things, provide the combined company increased scale and leverage in the converging video, mobile, and broadband industries and may make it more difficult for us to obtain access to Time Warner’s programming networks on nondiscriminatory and fair terms, or at all.  Furthermore, AT&T’s current practice of offering wireless subscribers access to owned video content over the Internet without counting against a subscriber’s monthly data caps (“zero rating”) may give an unfair advantage to AT&T’s own video content, which currently includes, among others, DirecTV services, including DirecTV Now, on mobile devices.

 

In May 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group (“Sinclair”) announced plans to acquire Tribune Media Company (“Tribune”), subject to approval by the Department of Justice and the FCC.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of government review of the proposed transaction.  If the proposed transaction is completed, the combined company (“New Sinclair”) would become the nation’s largest broadcast conglomerate.  New Sinclair may be able to use its scale to increase the leverage that it holds in retransmission consent negotiations which could, among other things, raise our programming costs and/or cause us to modify our programming packages as a result of programming interruptions.

 

As the pay-TV industry is mature, our strategy has included an increased emphasis on acquiring and retaining higher quality subscribers, even if it means that we will acquire and retain fewer overall subscribers.  We evaluate the quality of subscribers based upon a number of factors, including, among others, profitability.    Our DISH TV subscriber base has been declining due to, among other things, this strategy and the factors described above.  There can be no assurance that our DISH TV subscriber base will not continue to decline.  In the event that our DISH 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.

 

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Changing consumer behavior and competition from digital media companies that provide or facilitate the delivery of video content via the Internet may reduce our 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 TV and Sling TV services.  We face competition from providers of digital media, including, among others, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Verizon, DirecTV, Sony, YouTube, Fubo and Philo that offer online services distributing movies, television shows and other video programming as well as programmers, such as HBO, CBS, STARZ and SHOWTIME, that began selling content directly to consumers over the Internet.  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 MVPDs, 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. 

 

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, through technological advancements and 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, phones, tablets, videogame consoles, and other devices, some without charging a fee to access the content.  Similarly, while our customers can use their traditional video subscription to access mobile programming, an increasing number of customers are also using mobile devices as the sole means of viewing video, and an increasing number of non-traditional video providers are developing content and technologies to satisfy that demand.  These technological advancements, changes in consumer behavior, and the increasing number of choices available to consumers with regard to the means by which consumers obtain video content may cause DISH TV 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 DISH 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 DISH TV 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 subscriber activations and increased subscriber churn rate.  We could face fewer subscriber activations and increased subscriber churn rate 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 third-party retailers, who generate a meaningful percentage of our gross new DISH TV subscriber activations, because many of them are small businesses that are more susceptible to the negative effects of economic weakness.  In particular, our DISH TV churn rate 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.

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·

Lower 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.  In addition, Sling TV subscribers on average purchase lower priced programming services than DISH TV subscribers, and therefore, as Sling TV subscribers increase, it will have a negative impact on 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.

 

Our competitors may be able to leverage their relationships with programmers to reduce their programming costs and/or 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.  In 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.  However, in January 2018, the prohibition on exclusivity expired, and we can no longer rely on these protections.  Also, in October 2016, AT&T announced its pending acquisition of Time Warner.  In November 2017, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block the merger; the trial is scheduled to begin in March 2018.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of this lawsuit.  This transaction would join DirecTV, which was acquired by AT&T in 2015, with Time Warner’s media holdings, which include content such as HBO, TBS, TNT, CNN, and movies.  If approved, this transaction may affect us adversely by, among other things, making it more difficult for us to obtain access to Time Warner programming networks on nondiscriminatory and fair terms, or at all.

 

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

 

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 services offerings:

 

·

We face significant competition from programmers such as DirecTV Now, Sony PlayStation Vue, YouTube, Fubo and Philo, which distribute live linear television programming over the Internet, from content providers such as HBO, CBS, STARZ and SHOWTIME, which have begun selling content directly to consumers over the Internet, and other companies including, among others, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Verizon, some of which have original content, larger customer bases, stronger brand recognition, and significant financial, marketing and other resources.  We also face 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 maintain or 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;

 

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·

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;

 

·

We may not be able to timely scale our technology, 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 Orange service has limitations that may not be applicable to our competitors, such as not being able to view content on more than one device simultaneously, and with respect to certain programming, not being able to provide a feature to record content for future viewing.  If we are unable to remove those limitations and add such features to the Sling Orange service in the future, our ability to compete with other offerings could be adversely impacted; and

 

·

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.

 

If government regulations relating to the Internet change, we may need to alter the manner in which we conduct our Sling TV business, and/or incur greater operating expenses to comply with those regulations.

 

The adoption or modification of laws or regulations relating to the Internet could limit or otherwise adversely affect the manner in which we currently conduct our Sling TV business.  Changes in laws or regulations that adversely affect the growth, popularity or use of the Internet, including Open Internet rules, could decrease the demand for our Sling TV services and increase our cost of providing our Sling TV services.  Given the lack of laws in the United States to prevent network operators from discriminating against the legal traffic that crosses their networks, coupled with potentially significant political and economic power of local network operators, we could experience discriminatory or anti-competitive practices that could impede our growth, cause us to incur additional expense or otherwise negatively affect our business.

 

We cannot predict with any certainty the impact to our Sling TV business that may result from changes in laws or regulations that adversely affect the growth, popularity or use of the Internet, including Open Internet rules. 

 

Changes in how network operators handle and charge for access to data that travels across their networks could adversely impact our business.

 

We rely upon the ability of consumers to access our Sling TV services through the Internet.  If network operators block, restrict or otherwise impair access to our Sling TV services over their networks, our Sling TV business could be negatively affected.  To the extent that network operators implement usage based pricing, including meaningful bandwidth caps, or otherwise try to monetize access to their networks by data providers, we could incur greater operating expenses and our Sling TV subscriber count could be negatively impacted.  Furthermore, to the extent network operators create tiers of Internet access service and either charge us for or prohibit us from being available through these tiers, our Sling TV business could be negatively impacted.

 

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 acquisition of DirecTV and the completion of the New Charter merger, these risks may be exacerbated to the extent these and other network operators are able to provide preferential treatment to their data.  Furthermore, AT&T’s current zero rating practice may give an unfair advantage to AT&T’s own video services, which currently include, among others, DirecTV services, including DirecTV Now.

 

We cannot predict with any certainty the impact to our Sling TV business that may result from changes in how network operators handle and charge for access to data that travels across their networks. 

 

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We face increasing competition from other distributors of unique programming services such as foreign language, sports programming, and original content 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, sports programming, and original content 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 rate.  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 our operational performance and customer satisfaction were to deteriorate, our subscriber activations and our subscriber churn rate may be negatively impacted, which could in turn adversely affect our revenue.

 

If our operational performance and customer satisfaction were to deteriorate, we may experience a decrease in subscriber activations and an increase our subscriber churn rate, 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 combat the deterioration of our operational performance, our future subscriber activations and existing subscriber churn rate may be negatively impacted, which could in turn adversely affect our revenue growth and results of operations.

 

If our subscriber activations continue to decrease, or if our subscriber churn rate, 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 gross new DISH TV subscriber activations, net DISH TV subscriber additions, and DISH TV churn rate continue to be negatively impacted by stricter customer acquisition and retention policies for our DISH TV subscribers, including an increased emphasis on acquiring and retaining higher quality subscribers.  In addition, our subscriber acquisition costs could increase as a result of increased spending for advertising and, with respect to our DISH TV services, the installation of more DVR receivers, which are generally more expensive than other receivers.  Retention costs with respect to our DISH TV services may be driven higher by increased upgrades of existing subscribers’ equipment to HD and DVR receivers.  Although we expect to continue to incur expenses, such as providing retention credits and other subscriber acquisition and retention expenses, to attract and retain subscribers, there can be no assurance that our efforts will generate new subscribers or result in a lower churn rate.  Additionally, certain of our promotions, including, among others, pay-in-advance, continue to 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 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.

 

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Programming expenses are increasing and may 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 on a per subscriber basis.  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 services, 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 cause us to increase the rates that we charge our Pay-TV 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 subscriber activations and our subscriber churn rate may be negatively impacted.

 

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, our net Pay-TV subscriber additions, gross new DISH TV subscriber activations, and DISH TV churn rate have been negatively impacted as a result of programming interruptions and threatened programming interruptions in connection with the scheduled expiration of programming carriage contracts with content providers.  We cannot predict with any certainty the impact to our net Pay-TV subscriber additions, gross new DISH TV subscriber activations, and DISH TV churn rate resulting from programming interruptions or threatened programming interruptions that may occur in the future.  As a result, we may at times suffer from periods of lower net Pay-TV subscriber additions or higher net Pay-TV subscriber losses. 

 

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 net Pay-TV subscriber additions, gross new DISH TV subscriber activations, and DISH TV 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

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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, 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 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 programming packages and value-added services and may also be better equipped and have greater resources to increase their programming 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 4K HD televisions and programming 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.

 

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 or our third-party providers’ information technology hardware and software infrastructure and communications systems, or otherwise cause interruptions or malfunctions in our operations, which could result in lawsuits, government claims, investigations or proceedings, significant losses or reputational damage.  Due to the fast-moving pace of technology, it may be difficult to detect,

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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.

 

We currently depend on EchoStar to provide the vast majority of our satellite transponder capacity and other related services to us.  Our business would be adversely affected if EchoStar ceases to provide these services to us and we are unable to obtain suitable replacement services from third parties.

 

We lease the vast majority of our satellite transponder capacity from EchoStar and EchoStar is a key supplier of other related services to us.  Satellite transponder leasing costs may increase beyond our current expectations.  Our inability to obtain satellite transponder capacity and other related services from third parties could adversely affect our subscriber activations and subscriber churn rate and cause related revenue to decline.

 

See Note 18 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.

 

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, 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;

·

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 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

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may also be at a competitive disadvantage in developing and introducing complex new products and services for our DISH 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 competition 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.  If we are 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 TV and Sling TV 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.

 

We rely 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.

 

We rely 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 our 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, we 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, electronic manufacturers may experience shortages for certain components, from time to time.  We have 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 subscriber activations.

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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 subscriber activations, also cause our subscriber churn rate to increase.  For our DISH TV services, in order 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 DBS receiver systems to control access to authorized programming content (“Security Access Devices”).  Furthermore, for our Sling TV services, we encrypt programming content and use digital rights management software to, among other things, prevent unauthorized access to our programming content.

 

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 may 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 third-party 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 subscriber activations and subscriber churn rate.  Economic weakness may create greater incentive for signal theft, piracy and other forms of fraud, which could lead to higher subscriber churn rate and reduced revenue.

 

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

 

While we offer products and services through direct sales channels, a meaningful percentage of our total gross new DISH TV 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 third-party retailers are not exclusive to us and some of our independent third-party 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 third-party 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 third-party 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 third-party retailers.  It may be difficult to better align our interests with our independent third-party 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.

 

We have limited satellite capacity and failures or reduced capacity could adversely affect our DISH TV services.

 

Operation of our DISH TV services requires that we have adequate satellite transmission capacity for the programming we offer.  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 satellite 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 TV services 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 owned and leased satellites ranges from 12 to 15 years.  We can provide no assurance, however, as to the actual useful lives of any of these satellites. 

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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.  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.  Operation of our DISH TV services requires that we have adequate satellite transmission capacity for the programming we offer.  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 “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 for further information.

 

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 DISH 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 the 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.

 

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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 satellite 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.

 

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.  The executive officers and the members of our Board of Directors who are members of the Board of Directors of 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 41.2% of EchoStar’s total equity securities (assuming conversion of all Class B Common Stock into Class A Common Stock) and beneficially owns approximately 45.8% 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 72.4% of the voting power of EchoStar.  Mr. Ergen’s ownership of EchoStar excludes 9,777,751 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 10.2% of EchoStar’s total equity securities (assuming conversion of all Class B Common Stock into Class A Common Stock) and beneficially own approximately 16.9% 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 18.6% 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, Mr. Ergen is employed by both us and EchoStar.

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·

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 18 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 to compete directly against us in the subscription television business.

 

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

 

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 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.

 

Since 2008, we have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets and made over $10 billion in non-controlling investments in certain entities, for a total of over $21 billion, as described further below.

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DISH Network Spectrum

 

We have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets. 

 

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.  These licenses are subject to certain build-out requirements.  By March 2020, we must provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 70% of the population in each of our E Block license areas (the “700 MHz Build-Out Requirement”).  If the 700 MHz Build-Out Requirement is not met with respect to any particular E Block license area, our authorization may terminate for the geographic portion of that license area in which we are not providing service.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in March 2020 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

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 (“AWS-4”).  These licenses are subject to certain build-out requirements.  By March 2020, we are 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 Build-Out Requirement”).  If the AWS-4 Build-Out Requirement is not met with respect to any particular individual license, our terrestrial authorization for that license area 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 terrestrial downlink operations.  On June 1, 2016, we notified the FCC that we had elected to use our AWS-4 uplink spectrum for terrestrial downlink operations, and effective June 7, 2016, the FCC modified our AWS-4 licenses, resulting in all 40 MHz of our AWS-4 spectrum being designated for terrestrial downlink operations.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in March 2023 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

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 the H Block Interim Build-Out Requirement is not met, 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 do not meet the requirement.  If the H Block Final Build-Out Requirement is not met, our authorization for each H Block license area in which we do not meet the requirement may terminate.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in April 2024 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

600 MHz Licenses.  The broadcast incentive auction in the 600 MHz frequency range (“Auction 1000”) began on March 29, 2016 and concluded on March 30, 2017.  On April 13, 2017, the FCC announced that ParkerB.com Wireless L.L.C. (“ParkerB.com”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of DISH Network, was the winning bidder for 486 wireless spectrum licenses (the “600 MHz Licenses”) with aggregate winning bids totaling approximately $6.211 billion.  On April 27, 2017, ParkerB.com filed an application with the FCC to acquire the 600 MHz Licenses.  On July 1, 2016, we paid $1.5 billion to the FCC as a deposit for Auction 1000.  On May 11, 2017, we paid the remaining balance of our winning bids of approximately $4.711 billion.  On June 14, 2017, the FCC issued an order granting ParkerB.com’s application to acquire the 600 MHz Licenses.

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The 600 MHz Licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  By June 2023, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer wireless service to at least 40% of the population in each area covered by an individual 600 MHz License (the “600 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement”).  By June 2029, we must provide reliable signal coverage and offer wireless service to at least 75% of the population in each area covered by an individual 600 MHz License (the “600 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement”).  If the 600 MHz Interim Build-Out Requirement is not met, the 600 MHz License term and the 600 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement may be accelerated by two years (from June 2029 to June 2027) for each 600 MHz License area in which we do not meet the requirement.  If the 600 MHz Final Build-Out Requirement is not met, our authorization for each 600 MHz License area in which we do not meet the requirement may terminate.  In addition, certain broadcasters will have up to 39 months (ending July 13, 2020) to relinquish their 600 MHz spectrum, which may impact the timing for our ability to commence operations using certain 600 MHz Licenses.  The FCC has issued the 600 MHz Licenses prior to the clearance of the spectrum, and the build-out deadlines are based on the date that the 600 MHz Licenses were issued to us, not the date that the spectrum is cleared.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in June 2029 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

MVDDS Licenses.  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.  Our MVDDS licenses may be terminated, however, if we do not provide substantial service in accordance with the new build-out requirements.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in August 2024 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

In 2016, the MVDDS 5G Coalition, of which we are a member, filed a petition for rulemaking requesting the FCC to consider updating the rules to allow us to provide two-way 5G services using our MVDDS licenses.  We cannot predict when or if the FCC will grant the petition and proceed with a rulemaking.  If the FCC adopts rules that would allow us to provide two-way 5G services using our MVDDS licenses, the requests of OneWeb and others for authority to use the band for service from NGSO satellite systems may hinder our ability to provide 5G services using our MVDDS licenses.

 

LMDS Licenses.  As a result of the completion of the Share Exchange on February 28, 2017, we acquired from EchoStar certain Local Multipoint Distribution Service (“LMDS”) licenses in four markets:  Cheyenne, Kansas City, Phoenix, and San Diego.  The “substantial service” milestone has been met with respect to each of the licenses.  In addition, through the FCC’s Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, a portion of each of our LMDS licenses will be reassigned to the Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service band (27.5-28.35 GHz), which will allow for a more flexible use of the licenses, including, among other things, 5G mobile operations.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in September 2018 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum 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.  In addition, as we consider our options for the commercialization of our wireless spectrum, we will incur significant additional expenses and will have to make significant investments related to, among other things, research and development, wireless testing and wireless network infrastructure.  In March 2017, we notified the FCC that we plan to deploy a next-generation 5G-capable network, focused on supporting narrowband IoT.  The first phase of our network deployment will be completed by March 2020, with subsequent phases to be completed thereafter.    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.

 

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

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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 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.

 

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 D. C. Circuit challenging, among other things, the FCC’s determination that they are ineligible to receive the Bidding Credit Amounts.  Oral arguments were presented to the D. C. Circuit on September 26, 2016.    On August 29, 2017, the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion, holding that: (i) the FCC reasonably applied its precedent to determine that DISH Network exercised a disqualifying degree of de facto control over Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless (rendering them ineligible to claim the Bidding Credit Amounts), but (ii) the FCC did not give Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless adequate notice that, if their relationships with DISH Network cost them the Bidding Credit Amounts, the FCC would also deny them an opportunity to cure.  The case was remanded to the FCC to give Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless an opportunity to seek to negotiate a cure for the de facto control the FCC found that DISH Network exercises over them.    On January 24, 2018, the FCC released an Order on Remand, DA 18-70 (the “Order on Remand”), in which the FCC ordered, among other things, that Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless each have 90 days to negotiate with DISH Network a cure for the de facto control the FCC found that DISH Network exercises over them.  The Order on Remand also provides, among other things, a potential 45-day extension for such negotiations, a 45-day period for certain third-parties to file comments about any changes to the agreements proposed by Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless, and up to 90 days for Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless to respond to any such third-party comments.  On January 26, 2018, SNR Wireless and Northstar Wireless filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the United States Supreme Court to hear an appeal from the August 29, 2017 opinion from the D.C. Circuit.  We cannot predict with any degree of certainty the timing or outcome of these proceedings.

 

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, in light of, and subject to, the litigation arising from the Order, entered into a series of arrangements with respect to the AWS-3 Licenses that included, among other things, a notification from Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless to the FCC that they would not be paying the gross winning bid amounts on certain AWS-3 Licenses.  As a result, the FCC retained those AWS-3 Licenses and Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless paid the FCC an additional interim payment of approximately $516 million, as further described below.

 

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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 was 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.

 

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. 

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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 was 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.

 

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.

 

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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 consolidate these entities into our financial statements.  See Note 2 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

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 the AWS-3 Interim Build-Out Requirement is not met, 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 Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless do not meet the requirement.  If the AWS-3 Final Build-Out Requirement is not met, the authorization for each AWS-3 License area in which Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless do not meet the requirement may terminate.  These wireless spectrum licenses expire in October 2027 unless they are renewed by the FCC.  There can be no assurances that the FCC will renew these wireless spectrum licenses.

 

In addition, on September 23, 2016, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia unsealed a qui tam complaint that was filed by Vermont National Telephone Company (“Vermont National”) against us; our wholly-owned subsidiaries, American AWS-3 Wireless I L.L.C., American II, American III, and DISH Wireless Holding L.L.C.; Charles W. Ergen (our Chairman) and Cantey M. Ergen (a member of our board of directors); Northstar Wireless; Northstar Spectrum; Northstar Manager; SNR Wireless; SNR HoldCo; SNR Management; and certain other parties.  See “Contingencies – Litigation – Vermont National Telephone Company” in Note 14 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

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, comply with regulations applicable to the Northstar Licenses and the SNR Licenses, and make any potential payments related to the Northstar Re-Auction Payment and the SNR Re-Auction Payment for the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC.  Depending upon the nature and scope of such

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commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, regulatory compliance, and potential Northstar Re-Auction Payment and SNR Re-Auction Payment, 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 further 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. 

 

We capitalize our interest expense associated with the acquisition or construction of certain assets, including, among other things, our wireless spectrum licenses.  As the carrying amount of these licenses now exceeds the carrying value of our long-term debt, materially all of our interest expense is being capitalized as of June 14, 2017.  This capitalized interest increases the carrying amount of these licenses for purposes of impairment testing, under which we consider whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of these licenses exceeds the carrying amount of these licenses.  An increase in the carrying amount of these licenses combined with other changes in circumstances and/or market conditions could result in an increased risk of an impairment of these licenses in the future and an impairment of these assets may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

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 – 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” 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

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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 D.C. Circuit, challenging, among other things, the FCC’s determination that they are ineligible to receive the Bidding Credit Amounts.  Oral arguments were presented to the Court on September 26, 2016.  On August 29, 2017, the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion, holding that: (i) the FCC reasonably applied its precedent to determine that DISH Network exercised a disqualifying degree of de facto control over Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless (rendering them ineligible to claim the Bidding Credit Amounts), but (ii) the FCC did not give Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless adequate notice that, if their relationships with DISH Network cost them the Bidding Credit Amounts, the FCC would also deny them an opportunity to cure.  The case was remanded to the FCC to give Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless an opportunity to seek to negotiate a cure for the de facto control the FCC found that DISH Network exercises over them.    On January 24, 2018, the FCC released an Order on Remand, DA 18-70 (the “Order on Remand”), in which the FCC ordered, among other things, that Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless each have 90 days to negotiate with DISH Network a cure for the de facto control the FCC found that DISH Network exercises over them.  The Order on Remand also provides, among other things, a potential 45-day extension for such negotiations, a 45-day period for certain third-parties to file comments about any changes to the agreements proposed by Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless, and up to 90 days for Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless to respond to any such third-party comments.  On January 26, 2018, SNR Wireless and Northstar Wireless filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the United States Supreme Court to hear an appeal from the August 29, 2017 opinion from the D.C. Circuit.    We cannot predict with any degree of certainty the timing or outcome of these proceedings. 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.

 

In addition, on September 23, 2016, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia unsealed a qui tam complaint that was filed by Vermont National against us; our wholly-owned subsidiaries, American AWS-3 Wireless I L.L.C., American II, American III, and DISH Wireless Holding L.L.C.; Charles W. Ergen (our Chairman) and Cantey M. Ergen (a member of our board of directors); Northstar Wireless; Northstar Spectrum; Northstar Manager; SNR Wireless; SNR HoldCo; SNR Management; and certain other parties.  See “Contingencies – Litigation – Vermont National Telephone Company” in Note 14 in the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K 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, and make any potential payments related to the Northstar Re-Auction Payment and the SNR Re-Auction Payment for the AWS-3 Licenses retained by the FCC.  Depending upon the nature and scope of such commercialization, build-out, integration efforts, and regulatory compliance, and potential Northstar Re-Auction Payment and SNR Re-Auction Payment, any such loans or partnerships could vary significantly.  We may need to raise

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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.

 

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.  These wireless spectrum licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements.  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.  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 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 have become more prevalent in the marketplace as wireless telecommunications providers have expanded 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 United States, which has an OTT service, DirecTV Now, that competes directly with our Sling TV services.  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.  In addition, in October 2016, AT&T announced its pending acquisition of Time Warner.  In November 2017, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block the merger; the trial is scheduled to begin in March 2018.  We cannot predict the timing or outcome of this lawsuit.  If the proposed transaction ultimately is completed, the addition of Time

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Warner’s media holdings, which include content, such as HBO, TBS, TNT, CNN, and movies, would, among other things, provide the combined company increased scale and leverage in the converging video, mobile, and broadband industries.  For example, AT&T’s current zero rating practice may give an unfair advantage to AT&T’s own video content, which currently includes, among others, DirecTV services on mobile devices.

 

·

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 and usage of data, video and other voice and non-voice 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 or acquire additional 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 based on certain factors depending on the license including, among others, public interest considerations, level and quality of services and/or operations provided by the licensee, frequency and duration of any interruptions or outages of services and/or operations provided by the licensee, and the extent to which service is provided to, and/or operation is provided in, rural areas and tribal lands.  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.  In addition, the FCC uses its transactional “spectrum screen” to identify prospective wireless transactions that may require additional competitive scrutiny.  If a proposed transaction would exceed the spectrum screen threshold, the FCC undertakes a more detailed analysis of relevant market conditions in the impacted geographic areas to determine

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whether the transaction would reduce competition without offsetting public benefits.  If a proposed spectrum acquisition exceeds the spectrum screen trigger such additional review could extend the duration of the regulatory review process and there can be no assurance that such proposed spectrum acquisition would ultimately be completed in whole or in part.  For further information related to our wireless spectrum licenses, including build-out requirements, see other Risk Factors above.

 

Our wireless spectrum licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements and the failure to meet such build-out requirements may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

Our wireless spectrum licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements and there is no guarantee that the FCC will find our build-out sufficient to meet the build-out requirements.  Failure to comply with FCC build-out requirements in a given license area could result in revocation of the license for that license area.  The revocation of our wireless spectrum licenses may have a material adverse effect on our future business, results of operations and financial condition.  For further information related to our wireless spectrum licenses, including build-out requirements, see other Risk Factors above. 

 

We rely on highly skilled personnel for our wireless business and, if we are unable to hire and retain key personnel or hire qualified personnel then our wireless business may be adversely affected.

 

We believe that our wireless business is dependent on our ability to identify, hire, develop, motivate, and retain a new team of highly skilled personnel with knowledge of the wireless industry.  Our wireless business will be adversely affected if we fail to effectively identify, hire, develop, motivate, and retain highly skilled personnel with knowledge of the wireless industry.

 

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.

 

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.

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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 (including significant investments in wireless).  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.

 

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 have substantial debt outstanding and may incur additional debt.

 

As of December 31, 2017, our total long-term debt and capital lease obligations, including the debt of our subsidiaries, was $16.203 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.

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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.

 

The conditional conversion features of our 3 3/8% Convertible Notes due 2026 (the “Convertible Notes due 2026”) and our 2 3/8% Convertible Notes due 2024 (the “Convertible Notes due 2024,” and collectively with the Convertible Notes due 2026, the “Convertible Notes”), if triggered, may adversely affect our financial condition.    

 

In the event the conditional conversion features of the Convertible Notes are triggered, holders of the Convertible Notes will be entitled to convert the Convertible Notes at any time during specified periods at their option.  If one or more holders elect to convert their Convertible Notes, unless we elect to satisfy our conversion obligation by delivering solely shares of our Class A common stock, we would be required to make cash payments to satisfy all or a portion of our conversion obligation based on the conversion rate, which could adversely affect our liquidity.  In addition, even if holders do not elect to convert their Convertible Notes, we could be required under applicable accounting rules to reclassify all or a portion of the outstanding principal of the Convertible Notes as a current rather than long-term liability, which could result in a material reduction of our net working capital.

 

The convertible note hedge and warrant transactions that we entered into in connection with the offering of the Convertible Notes due 2026 may affect the value of the Convertible Notes due 2026 and our Class A common stock.

 

In connection with the offering of the Convertible Notes due 2026, we entered into convertible note hedge transactions with certain option counterparties (each an “option counterparty”).  The convertible note hedge transactions are expected generally to reduce the potential dilution upon conversion of the Convertible Notes due 2026 and/or offset any cash payments we are required to make in excess of the principal amount of converted Convertible Notes due 2026, as the case may be.  We also entered into warrant transactions with each option counterparty.  The warrant transactions could separately have a dilutive effect on our Class A common stock to the extent that the market price per share of our Class A common stock exceeds the strike price of the warrants, unless we elect to settle the warrants in cash.  In connection with establishing its initial hedge of the convertible note hedge and warrant transactions, each option counterparty or an affiliate thereof may have entered into various derivative transactions with respect to our Class A common stock concurrently with or shortly after the pricing of the Convertible Notes due 2026.  This activity could increase (or reduce the size of any decrease in) the market price of our Class A common stock or the Convertible Notes due 2026 at that time.  In addition, each option counterparty or an affiliate thereof may modify its hedge position by entering into or unwinding various derivatives with respect to our Class A common stock and/or purchasing or selling our Class A common stock or other securities of ours in secondary market transactions prior to the maturity of the Convertible Notes due 2026 (and is likely to do so during any observation period related to a conversion of the Convertible Notes due 2026).  This activity could also cause or avoid an increase or a decrease in the market price of our Class A common stock or the Convertible Notes due 2026.  In addition, if any such convertible note hedge and warrant transactions fail to become effective, each option counterparty may unwind its hedge position with respect to our Class A common stock, which could adversely affect the value of our Class A common stock and the value of the Convertible Notes due 2026.

 

We are subject to counterparty risk with respect to the convertible note hedge transactions.

 

Each option counterparty to the convertible note hedge transactions is a financial institution, and we will be subject to the risk that it might default under the convertible note hedge transaction.  Our exposure to the credit risk of an option counterparty will not be secured by any collateral.  Global economic conditions have from time to time resulted in the actual or perceived failure or financial difficulties of many financial institutions, including the bankruptcy filing by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and its various affiliates.  If an option counterparty becomes subject to insolvency proceedings, we will become an unsecured creditor in those proceedings with a claim equal to our exposure at that time under our transactions with the option counterparty.  Our exposure will depend on many factors but, generally, the increase in our exposure will be correlated to the increase in the market price and in the volatility of our Class A common stock.  In addition, upon a default by an option counterparty, we may suffer adverse tax consequences and more dilution than we currently anticipate with respect to our Class A common stock.  We can provide no assurances as to the financial stability or viability of any option counterparty.

 

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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.

 

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 articles 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.

 

As discussed below, Charles W. Ergen, our Chairman, controls approximately 78.5% of the total voting power of our company.  Such control by Mr. Ergen may make it impractical for any third party to effect a change in control of our company.  In addition, pursuant to our articles 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.

 

Charles W. Ergen, our Chairman, owns approximately 44.6% of our total equity securities (assuming conversion of all Class B Common Stock into Class A Common Stock) and beneficially owns approximately 48.0% 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

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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 12.9% 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 12.9% 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.

 

Legal and Regulatory Risks

 

The rulings in the Telemarketing litigation requiring us to pay up to an aggregate amount of $341 million and imposing certain injunctive relief against us, if upheld, would have a material adverse effect on our cash, cash equivalents and marketable investment securities balances and our business operations.

 

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 (the “FTC Action”), alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”), as well as analogous state statutes and state consumer protection laws.  The plaintiffs alleged 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 were 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. was entitled to partial summary judgment with respect to one claim in the action.  In addition, the Court found that the plaintiffs were entitled to partial summary judgment with respect to ten claims in the action, which included, 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 were questions for trial. 

 

In pre-trial disclosures, the federal plaintiff indicated that it intended to seek up to $900 million in alleged civil penalties, and the state plaintiffs indicated that they intended to seek as much as $23.5 billion in alleged civil penalties and damages.  The plaintiffs also modified their request for injunctive relief.  Their requested injunction, if granted, would have enjoined DISH Network L.L.C. from placing outbound telemarketing calls unless and until: (i) DISH Network L.L.C. hired a third-party consulting organization to perform a review of its call center operations; (ii) such third-party consulting organization submitted a telemarketing compliance plan to the Court and the federal plaintiff; (iii) the Court held a hearing on the adequacy of the plan; (iv) if the Court approved the plan, DISH Network L.L.C. implemented the plan and verified to the Court that it had implemented the plan; and (v) the Court issued an order permitting DISH Network L.L.C. to resume placing outbound telemarketing calls.  The plaintiffs’ modified request for injunctive relief, if granted, would have also enjoined DISH Network L.L.C. from accepting customer orders solicited by certain

53


 

independent third-party retailers unless and until a similar third-party review and Court approval process was followed with respect to the telemarketing activities of its independent third-party retailer base to ensure compliance with the TSR.

 

The first phase of the bench trial took place January 19, 2016 through February 11, 2016.  In closing briefs, the federal plaintiff indicated that it still was seeking $900 million in alleged civil penalties; the California state plaintiff indicated that it was seeking $100 million in alleged civil penalties and damages for its state law claims (in addition to any amounts sought on its federal law claims); the Ohio state plaintiff indicated that it was seeking approximately $10 million in alleged civil penalties and damages for its state law claims (in addition to any amounts sought on its federal law claims); and the Illinois and North Carolina state plaintiffs did not state the specific alleged civil penalties and damages that they were seeking; but the state plaintiffs took the general position that any damages award less than $1.0 billion (presumably for both federal and state law claims) would not raise constitutional concerns.  Under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, excessive fines may not be imposed.

 

On October 3, 2016, the plaintiffs further modified their request for injunctive relief and were seeking, among other things, to 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 some or all existing independent third-party retailers.  The second phase of the bench trial, which commenced on October 25, 2016 and concluded on November 2, 2016, covered the plaintiffs’ requested injunctive relief, as well as certain evidence related to the state plaintiffs’ claims.

 

On June 5, 2017, the Court issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and entered Judgment ordering DISH Network L.L.C. to pay an aggregate amount of $280 million to the federal and state plaintiffs.  The Court also issued a Permanent Injunction (the “Injunction”) against DISH Network L.L.C. that imposes certain ongoing compliance requirements on DISH Network L.L.C., which include, among other things:  (i) the retention of a telemarketing-compliance expert to prepare a plan to ensure that DISH Network L.L.C. and certain independent third-party retailers will continue to comply with telemarketing laws and the Injunction; (ii) certain telemarketing records retention and production requirements; and (iii) certain compliance reporting and monitoring requirements.  In addition to the compliance requirements under the Injunction, within ninety (90) days after the effective date of the Injunction, DISH Network L.L.C. is required to demonstrate that it and certain independent third-party retailers are in compliance with the Safe Harbor Provisions of the TSR and TCPA and have made no prerecorded telemarketing calls during the five (5) years prior to the effective date of the Injunction (collectively, the “Demonstration Requirements”).  If DISH Network L.L.C. fails to prove that it meets the Demonstration Requirements, it will be barred from conducting any outbound telemarketing for two (2) years.  If DISH Network L.L.C. fails to prove that a particular independent third-party retailer meets the Demonstration Requirements, DISH Network L.L.C. will be barred from accepting orders from that independent third-party retailer for two (2) years.  On July 3, 2017, DISH Network L.L.C. filed two motions with the Court:  (1) to alter or amend the Judgment or in the alternative to amend the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law; and (2) to clarify, alter and amend the Injunction.  On August 10, 2017, the Court:  (a) denied the motion to alter or amend the Judgment or in the alternative to amend the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law; and (b) allowed, in part, the motion to clarify, alter and amend the Injunction, and entered an Amended Permanent Injunction (the “Amended Injunction”).  Among other things, the Amended Injunction provided DISH Network L.L.C a thirty (30) day extension to meet the Demonstration Requirements, expanded the exclusion of certain independent third-party retailers from the Demonstration Requirements, and clarified that, with regard to independent third-party retailers, the Amended Injunction only applied to their telemarketing of DISH TV goods and services.  On October 10, 2017, DISH Network L.L.C. filed a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  On February 2, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a notice claiming that DISH Network L.L.C. failed to prove that it met the Demonstration Requirements, as required by the Injunction, and asking the Court to impose a two-year ban on telemarketing by us, and a two-year ban on accepting orders from our primary retailers.  The Court has indicated that it will set a hearing on the matter in June 2018.

 

During the year ended December 31, 2017, we recorded $255 million of “Litigation expense” related to the FTC Action on our Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income (Loss).  We recorded $25 million of “Litigation expense” related to the FTC Action during prior periods.  Our total accrual at December 31, 2017 related to the FTC Action was $280 million and is included in “Other accrued expenses” on our Consolidated Balance Sheets. 

54


 

Any eventual payments made with respect to the FTC Action may not be deductible for tax purposes, which had a negative impact on our effective tax rate for the year ended December 31, 2017.  The tax deductibility of any eventual payments made with respect to the FTC Action may change, based upon, among other things, further developments in the FTC Action, including final adjudication of the FTC Action.

 

We may also from time to time be subject to private civil litigation alleging telemarketing violations.  For example, a portion of the alleged telemarketing violations by an independent third-party retailer at issue in the FTC Action are also the subject of a certified class action filed against DISH Network L.L.C. in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (the “Krakauer Action”).  Following a five-day trial, on January 19, 2017, a jury in that case found that the independent third-party retailer was acting as DISH Network L.L.C.’s agent when it made the 51,119 calls at issue in that case, and that class members are eligible to recover $400 in damages for each call made in violation of the TCPA.  On March 7, 2017, DISH Network L.L.C. filed motions with the Court for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, for a new trial, which the Court denied on May 16, 2017.  On May 22, 2017, the Court ruled that the violations were willful and knowing, and trebled the damages award to $1,200 for each call made in violation of TCPA.  On January 25, 2018, the Court indicated that it will be entering judgment in favor of approximately 11,000 of the 18,000 potential class members whose identities, the Court found, are not subject to reasonable dispute.  During the year ended December 31, 2017, we recorded $41 million of “Litigation expense” related to the Krakauer Action on our Consolidated Statements of Operations and Comprehensive Income (Loss).  We recorded $20 million of “Litigation expense” related to the Krakauer Action during the fourth quarter 2016.  Our total accrual related to the Krakauer Action at December 31, 2017 was $61 million and is included in “Other accrued expenses” on our Consolidated Balance Sheets

 

The rulings in the Telemarketing litigation requiring us to pay up to an aggregate amount of $341 million and imposing certain injunctive relief against us, if upheld, would have a material adverse effect on our cash, cash equivalents and marketable investment securities balances and our business operations.

 

Our business may be materially affected by the Tax Reform Act.  Negative or unexpected tax consequences could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations

 

On December 22, 2017, the Tax Reform Act was enacted making significant changes to the Internal Revenue Code.  Such changes include, but are not limited to, a reduction in the corporate tax rate and certain limitations on corporate deductions (e.g., a limitation on the interest expense deduction available to companies).  These changes could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.  However, we are still assessing the full impact of the Tax Reform Act and cannot predict the manner in which regulations or legislation in these areas may be interpreted and enforced or the impact that such interpretations and enforcement could have on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

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.  Moreover, because of the rapid pace of technological change, we rely on technologies developed or TableOfContentslicensed 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.

 

55


 

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.  Furthermore, our digital content offerings depend in part on effective digital rights management technology to control access to digital content.  If the digital rights management technology that we use is compromised or otherwise malfunctions, content providers may be unwilling to provide access to their content.  Changes in the copyright laws or how such laws may be interpreted could impact our ability to deliver content and provide certain features and functionality, particularly over the Internet. 

 

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

 

We are, and may become, 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 “Item 1. Business –  Patents and Other Intellectual Property” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

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.

 

Certain of our programming agreements allow us to, among other things, deliver certain authenticated content via the Internet and/or deliver certain content through our Sling TV services, and 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 fixed and mobile broadband access providers, among other things, from blocking or throttling traffic, from paid privatization, and from unreasonably interfering with, or disadvantaging, consumers’ or content providers’ access to the Internet.

 

See “Item 1.  Business  – Government Regulations – FCC Regulations Governing our Pay-TV Operations – Open Internet” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.

 

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.  In October 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

56


 

assurances that such protections will be adopted or be as effective as the prohibition if they are adopted.  In the event that 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.  In July 2012, similar program access conditions that had applied to Time Warner Cable, which was acquired by Charter in 2016, expired as previously scheduled.  These developments may adversely affect our ability to obtain Liberty’s and Charter’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 expired in January 2018, and we can no longer rely on these protections. 

 

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 United States 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 change in the Administration and any government policy changes it may institute, which may be substantial, could increase regulatory uncertainty.  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.  In addition, the manner in which regulations or legislation in these areas 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.

 

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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 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 TV services could cause us to experience significant capacity constraints and prevent us from carrying additional popular national channels and/or carrying those national channels 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, 2017.  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.

 

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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

 

Pay-TV / Wireless

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

Customer call center and general offices, Roseland, New Jersey

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Bluefield, West Virginia

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, Christiansburg, Virginia

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, College Point, New York

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Harlingen, Texas

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, Hilliard, Ohio

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Littleton, Colorado

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

Customer call center, Phoenix, Arizona

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Customer call center, Thornton, Colorado

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Customer call center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

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

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Data Center, Cheyenne, Wyoming

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

Digital broadcast operations center, Cheyenne, Wyoming (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Digital broadcast operations center, Gilbert, Arizona (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Engineering offices and service center, Englewood, Colorado (2)

 

Pay-TV / Wireless

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Engineering office, American Fork, Utah (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Engineering office, Bangalore, India (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Engineering office, Foster City, California (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Engineering office, Kharkov, Ukraine (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Engineering office, Superior, Colorado (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

IT development center, Denver, Colorado

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Micro digital broadcast operations center, Mustang Ridge, Texas (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Regional digital broadcast operations center, Monee, Illinois (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Regional digital broadcast operations center, New Braunfels, Texas (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Regional digital broadcast operations center, Quicksburg, Virginia (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Regional digital broadcast operations center, Spokane, Washington (2)

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Service and remanufacturing center, Spartanburg, South Carolina

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Warehouse and distribution center, Denver, Colorado

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Warehouse and distribution center, Sacramento, California

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

Warehouse and distribution center, Atlanta, Georgia

 

Pay-TV

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Warehouse, Denver, Colorado

 

Pay-TV

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1)

See Note 18 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)

These properties were transferred to us in connection with the completion of the Share Exchange.

 

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 TV services.  See further information under “Item 1. Business –  Satellites” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

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Item 3.   LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

 

See Note 14 “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.

 

 

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 2017 and 2016 on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (as reported by Nasdaq) are set forth below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017

    

High

    

Low

 

First Quarter

 

$

64.00

 

$

58.02

 

Second Quarter

 

 

66.19

 

 

58.04

 

Third Quarter

 

 

66.00

 

 

52.15

 

Fourth Quarter

 

 

54.32

 

 

46.49

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

    

High

    

Low

 

First Quarter

 

$

57.35

 

$

39.71

 

Second Quarter

 

 

56.06

 

 

43.40

 

Third Quarter

 

 

55.04

 

 

48.84

 

Fourth Quarter

 

 

59.93

 

 

53.97

 

 

As of February 7, 2018, there were approximately 6,697 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 7, 2018, 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 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.

 

60


 

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, 2017 through December 31, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Purchased Under the

 

Period

    

Purchased

    

per Share

    

Programs

    

Programs (1)

 

 

 

(In thousands, except share data)

 

October 1, 2017 - October 31, 2017

 

 —

 

$

 —

 

 —

 

$

1,000,000

 

November 1, 2017 - November 30, 2017

 

 —

 

$

 —

 

 —

 

$

1,000,000

 

December 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017

 

 —

 

$

 —

 

 —

 

$

1,000,000

 

Total

 

 —

 

$

 —