Settlement talks at VOOM-Dish?

The Cablevision/VOOM $2.4 billion breach of contract legal action against EchoStar/Dish was abruptly halted on Wednesday. EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen was expected as a witness during the day.

The jury will reassemble on Monday, unless the parties can agree to a settlement. Observers saw lawyers from both sides huddled into a private room at the New York State Supreme Court, and there is considerable speculation that a settlement could now be in the offing.

The general consensus is that – to date – EchoStar/Dish has not done well out of the hearing, with a slew of negative rulings being handed down by Judge Richard Lowe III against EchoStar.

Besides the claimed $2.4 billion, also at stake is the resumption of transmissions by Dish of Cablevision’s sister company AMC, and its bouquet of channels.

“At some level, it simply isn’t worth the risk for Dish to continue to flirt with disaster when a settlement is presumably out there to be had at some reasonable price,” said Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett.  “From a shareholder perspective, most owners would be happy to see it settled,” said Nomura analyst Mike McCormack, speaking to trade paper Variety.

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