Longtime rivals in the joust for US satellite TV supremacy, Rupert Murdoch and Charlie Ergen, respective chairmen of News Corporation and EchoStar Communications, have been holding informal discussions about the possible acquisition of the latter.

Murdoch, still fuming at the irksome North American blank on the map of his global satellite TV empire, has been biding his time since Fast Charlie beat him to the draw in the shootout to acquire Hughes Electronics, parent of DirecTV, America’s largest satellite TV operator.

But Ergen, number two in the US satellite stakes, was finally gunned down by federal regulators on antitrust grounds [WAMN: 25-Nov02], since when he has also held cosy chats with executives of Liberty Media, the investment vehicle of cable-TV tycoon John Malone.

In the absence of any formal statement, speculation is rife and word around the media parish pump is that Murdoch and Malone are planning a joint bid for EchoStar – or maybe DirecTV. The cable king was involved in Murdoch’s initial failed bid for DirecTV, albeit as a minority partner.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff