No. 28: EchoStar

Littleton, Colo.

Revenue: $2.715 billion

Cash flow: -$187 million

While Nero fiddled, Rome burned. While DirecTV dawdled, EchoStar surprised everyone by reporting a $2 million profit for the second quarter and positive cash flow of $134 million. The No. 2 satellite company grew twice as fast as the market leader while upping revenue per home.

Now the newly supercharged direct-to-home satellite company is after the market leader with a bold $32 billion bid for DirecTV. The deal would make EchoStar a 16 million-subscriber behemoth, with the kind of leverage and economy of scale that could offset its huge marketing costs.

EchoStar’s 350,000 sub gain brought its total to 6.1 million customers and led chairman Charlie Ergun to predict an increase of 1.5 million to 2 million new homes this year.

If his pursuit of DirecTV fails, Ergun has alternatives. He has told analysts that EchoStar is looking at a number of companies.

EchoStar sits on a $2.4 billion war chest and recently bought controlling interest in high-speed Internet provider StarBand, and has plans to add three new satellites with hopes of deploying more channels and interactive technology.

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