Tuesday’s complex agreement with EchoStar [DISH] brings Gemstar-TV Guide [GMST] one-step closer to tidying up a litigious mess and some 9mln subs nearer to full distribution of TV Guide Channel. EchoStar will make a one-time $238mln cash payment ($190mln for licensing intellectual property and $48mln for Gemstar’s declining C-band Superstar/Netlink Group LLC (SNG), UVTV distribution, and SpaceCom businesses), launch the TV Guide channel on its "America’s Top 60" tier and extend the contract for TVG Network. Both sides agree to end litigation, which leaves Gemstar CEO Jeff Shell with Scientific-Atlanta [SFA] on his legal to-do list. The series of deals already concluded will put the TV Guide Channel in nearly 80mln HHs on long-term contracts; just one year ago, most of the channel’s distribution was short-term or un- contracted. Gemstar capped the day with a 4Q/’04 earnings report filled with progress. 4Q net loss was $491.4mln ($1.20/diluted share), compared to a net loss of $1.3bln ($3.19/diluted share) in the previous year’s 4Q. For the year ended Dec 31, Gemstar showed a net loss of $577.4mln ($1.41/diluted share), compared to $6.4bln ($15.64/diluted share) in ’02. "We’ve gotten our corporate house in order," Shell told analysts. Now the company will concentrate on growing businesses including "developing, deploying and monetizing the TV Guide on Demand business" in ’04. — Shell says Cox and Cablevision are the only Top 10 MSOs without a Gemstar guide deal but noted that the company will reach Cox customers through its recent deal with Pioneer (Cfax, 03/01).

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Early Signs Positive for Emergency Broadband Benefit Uptake

The FCC’s $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program kicked off with a bang Wednesday, and some 825 providers sat ready to answer consumer questions and get folks signed up for subsidies. Thus far, all has gone to plan and consumer interest is coming in either consistent with or in excess of providers’ early predictions.

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