Paris-headquartered media conglomerate Vivendi Universal, which today inks its $10.8bn deal to acquire Barry Diller’s USA Networks [WAMN: 12-Dec-01], has also agreed to take a 10% stake in EchoStar, America’s number two satellite operator.

The latter’s chairman Charlie Ergen, currently immersed in his hoped-for takeover of DirecTV, needs friends wherever he can get them to shore-up his controversial bid. He also needs cash – and Vivendi is prepared to stump up $1.5 billion for its ten percent of EchoStar. As important – more so, some say – is Vivendi’s capability to contribute content and global reach to Ergen’s ambitions.

The French operator has “the skill set we don't have, from an international perspective and interactive perspective,” enthuses Ergen. Vivendi and its chairman Jean-Marie Messier, he adds, has been “my number one choice for a long time.”

News sources: Financial Times; Wall Street Journal