Doom and Gloom at Voom

It seems that Voom is finally nearing the end of the line, despite Herculean (some would say Machiavellian) efforts to keep it alive by Cablevision founder Charles Dolan. In what can only be described as a real-life soap opera, Dolan's attempts to resurrect the HD satellite service have raised more than a few eyebrows and divided his own family squarely down the middle. (If you haven't been following the saga, you can get up to speed by starting here and following the links.)

As we pick up the story again, in late March, Dolan asked federal regulators to block Cablevision's sale of the Voom satellite to rival EchoStar, claiming the $200 million deal would limit competition in the DBS business. He was also working on raising $400 million in financing to buy the satellite and other assets out from under EchoStar, who was understandably resistant to the idea.

"We are perplexed that a member of the Cablevision board of directors [i.e., Dolan] would now file an objection after the board had already voted to sell the Rainbow satellite," said Steve Caulk of EchoStar. "Nonetheless we remain committed to completing the deal and using the spectrum to help compete in a growing pay-TV marketplace."

Joining Dolan's petition to block the sale was a group called the Association of Consumers to Preserve and Promote DBS Competition (a catchy name if ever there was one). In a new FCC filing this week, however, Cablevision and EchoStar claim that the group doesn't actually exist. Apparently, its "president," Jerome Sandler, has ties to the former consulting firm of Mickey Alpert, Voom's COO. Sandler denies allegations that the group was fabricated for the sole purpose of joining the petition, but he won't provide any details on its formation or membership.

In any event, the whole mess appears to be moot at this point. Last week, the Cablevision board voted to shut down Voom rather than continue the farce. The Voom Web site now offers the following message: "Voom will cease to provide service to existing customers on April 30, 2005. New customer orders are no longer being accepted, and we are unable to complete any scheduled installation or service appointments. You will be contacted regarding any scheduled appointment." And so, good night, sweet Voom; if nothing else, you provided a very entertaining tale that is sure to make a fine TV movie. Perhaps it will be available on EchoStar's Dish Network…

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