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Sky Angel: My Last Word

I’ve been so frustrated and frankly baffled at many of the responses to my previous posts on family and faith based programming provider Sky Angel’s move to IPTV, so I wanted to respond one last time. Honestly, I’m a little disgusted with most of the responses, and here are some reasons why:

I’ve been completely surprised by the nasty, bitter tone of many of the posts. Arrogant, hostile – even slanderous – statements by people who are talking about Christian programming! After investigating the situation closely, I can find very little reason for such hostile responses. After all, as company President Tom Scott wrote on this blog, nobody lost any money. People are whining about how much they’ve lost, and how much Sky Angel owes them, but no one lost money. Others are trying to mobilize a class action lawsuit. But what damages are there? None. Is the situation of losing satellite distribution regrettable? Certainly – and Sky Angel’s leadership has said as much more than once. But the move to IPTV was triggered by a satellite failure, and yet people “demand” the company apparently spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make a satellite (that Sky Angel doesn’t even own) right again. But sorry – you can’t fix a broken satellite. The “Geek Squad” can’t fly up there and make it better.

Could the company have done a better job of communicating? Perhaps. Was the partnerships with other organizations a bad idea? In retrospect, yes. But Mr. Johnson’s vision was to reach the world, and if he erred, it was on the side of expansion. Was Robert Johnson’s original idea of lifetime memberships a great concept? Probably not. After all, who can promise anything when it comes to technology that changes faster than at any time in history? But to crucify the company because of circumstances that are now out of their control?
It’s crazy when you think about it.

And speaking of Robert Johnson, why does everyone put him on such a pedestal? No question he was a visionary founder, and a brilliant man. But over and over, people talk as if the current management has desecrated his memory. Guess what? He picked the current management. He was completely aware of where the company was going before his passing. His own son has assumed the torch and the vision of the company and is the current CEO. Mr. Johnson’s wife is the Chairman. And do you really think Mr. Johnson wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to embrace this new technology? Remember – that’s the reason he founded the company. He was embracing the new satellite technology of his era because of his dissatisfaction with the current Christian programming slate on cable TV. When it comes to IPTV, he would have been the first in line.

It’s no wonder we’ve failed so miserably as Christians to make an impact in the culture. How is anyone supposed to look at us differently when we bicker and fight like this? Especially over something as small as our TV programming. It’s frankly embarrassing. The same types of people who criticize Christian leaders for getting a divorce because of the damage it does to the perception of Christians are fighting like cats and dogs over their TV service.

My comments are completely my own and don’t reflect at all on Sky Angel. As someone who works in media for a living, these types of issues matter to me, because if we don’t embrace technology and the power of change, we’ll continue to slide further and future into irrelevance in the eyes of the culture.

Folks, we’ve got to do better than this.

I’ve written before that we’re only as big as the size of the things that annoy us. For so many to get this worked up over TV programs is a sad state of affairs indeed. Let’s fight about something important like poverty, global hunger, or human trafficking. Let’s get upset over child abuse or global terrorism. Let’s get mad because of the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in countries where they’re being tortured and killed.

But a class action lawsuit because technology is changing and we can’t get our John Hagee fix through our satellite dish? Do you really want to be the guy that gets to heaven, and the accomplishment you’re most proud of is that you took Sky Angel to court?


  1. Good word Phil. 

    If the worst thing you can say about this situation is that the communication could have perhaps been better that's a world apart from anything unethical or illegal.

    I hope Sky Angel does well.  I'm glad you're assisting them.  Good luck to all involved.

  2. Well said Phil! You said all the things I wanted to say for quite a while after reading some of these comments about Sky Angel on your blog. Thank you, and God bless you!

  3. Phil – I'm watching my IPTV service tonight – and I'm thanking God for the courageous people at Sky Angel who are taking the risk to bring this to the world – I'm also thanking God for truth tellers like you who are willing to call a spade a spade as they say.  I will also pray for those who are feeling bitter and stuck.  May they find peace.  May they find gratitude for everything they have received over the years and take this opportunity to go out and minister to others like true Christians instead of wallowing in self-pity and resentment. Nothing happens in God's world by mistake – absolutely nothing! Thanks again.

  4. ??? – Rick, do you really think that dish, (a publicly traded company), won't work out a new profitable business deal with Sky Angel because they are still pouting over losing the arbitration to them several years ago?  That sounds absurd to me. I wonder how dish shareholders would feel about childish behavior like that in the baordroom – especially since the ruling on the arbitration was so clear that dish was in breach of contract. This has absolutely nothing to do with the arbitration. Read the FCC filing.

  5. It is kind of strang you should mention Breach of contract. you see we were sold the lifetime membership over the phone and paid for it with a credit card. We trusted them at their word we would have it the rest of our lives. It was a verbal agreement in our case and never entered our minds it would be breached. We were never told anything about the satalites life time.


  6. We have recently partnered with Sky Angel as part of the IPTV launch. It is so clear that the management and technical team is commited to Family and Faith programming.  Our experience has been totally positive with all members of the Sky Angel team.  

    I can appreciate that subscribers are disappointed that the satellite deal that they signed on for is no longer available. But I hope that they can appreciate the need to continue with programming which supports and promotes Christian values.

    My prayers and heartfelt thoughts to all.  


  7. Wow. I am flabergasted at all this dust up over Sky Angel. I will be switching to IPTV when the satellite service expires, but my mother will not because she doesn't have DSL. I am eternally grateful to those who are willing to give much so that the good news can be beamed into our homes. I remember when Christian programs were relegated to the Sunday morning ghetto, unless you lived in Porstmoth, VA, or Glendale, CA. I was instrumental in getting Christan television onto the Satcom I satellite, and then we wondered how we would pay for it. Today we have a whole slew of networks and programs reaching around the globe. Thank you, Jesus.

    And thank you to all those lifetime subscribers (I am not one) who provided Dominion with extra money to get Sky Angel going. That's no small potatoes. Some of you may be unhappy with the way things worked out for you personally, but many others have been blessed by the seeds you planted. Where else can we see our favorite ministry programs at various times throughout the day, documentaries that inform us and build up or faith, live conferences all day, music, kids programs, or the new Christian dramas that are being produced.

    I for one want to encourage the folks at Sky Angel as they give IPTV a go. The internet may prove to be a better way than satellite to deliver Christian programming to our homes. –dc

  8. Sky Angel management appeared to be mostly family members so business decisions may not have been independent. I was in a church that was "family owned" and we were kept in the dark on finances. This doesn't necessarily mean a scam was in progress, just that there was no peer overview of business decisions. My biggest beef is that Sky Angel just couldn't stand up to the plate and let lifetime partners know what was going down. We had to get "the rest of the story" from Phil Cooke and from Satellite Guys. Christians should be able to communicate with one another, but Sky Angel remained curiously silent so Sky Angel shouldn't have been surprised when frustrated partners began to seek other forums for venting those frustrations. I don't know if it would have been a viable option, but I was never asked if I would anty up again to keep Sky Angel viable.

  9. Phil, I have taken you to task on other issues in the past but I am proud you stepped up to the plate on this one and called a "spade a spade."  Christian's "constructive criticism" often becomes a quagmire of selfdestruction to the body of Christ and we all suffer, including culture.  This was one of your best blogs!  BRAVO!

  10. Phil,  I agree we need to do better as Christians.  I don't agree that this is about programing or that it is a small matter, especially to this life member:


    I'm 73 live entirely on SS. I could hardly afford  the lifetime membership.

    And all the global problems you mention, remember all started as small matters.  What Ed states above as his biggest beef, I concur.


  11. I am grateful for Phil being willing to step into the middle of this and couldn't agree more that we as Christians have a higher duty to each other than to allow the world to see us bicker over such a small matter.  When I read the letter from Sky Angel I reviewed the terms and conditions that were sent when I purchased the service and found the language they have quoted as to the subscription being for my life or the satellite company's.  I must admit I didn't read it when I purchased the service but that is my fault not Sky Angel's.  I, like Mr. McKitrick, am disappointed that the service didn't last longer but I realize that I have saved money and have been blessed for many years by the service. I also realize that, because of my early support many people have been blessed and most likely many people have heard the Word who wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity.  If I understand the letter they sent, they really had no choice and if they hadn't made the change, Sky Angel would no longer exist after March 31.  I commend them for the courage to carry on.  It would have been much easier I'm sure to just walk away.  I have read Mr. Scott's explanation on the "Dust it off" thread and was really dismayed to hear that some of what has been printed by a lifetime subscriber wasn't even the truth.  It's one thing to express disappointment, another to fabricate stories that cause harm to a Christian organization.  I, for one, will pack up my equipment and put it with the eight track player, the 45 records, and my black and white TV.  I didn't blame anybody for the passing of those technologies and I'm not going to fault Sky Angel now for trying to respond to the changing technology.  Phil is right.  Christian media will accept the change or become increasingly irrelevant in today's media world.  I wish Sky Angel great success and pray that they will stay true to their stated mission of using IPTV to allow the Gospel to reach the ends of the earth.  

  12. I can tell from some commentary that some (maybe even Phil) are unaware of the content of the original lifetime agreement with Sky Angel. Sky Angel stated to the effect that surplus transponders on Echostar III were leased in order to expedite the availability of service and that a backup satellite was under contract for an approximate 2002 launch. The projected lifetime of Echostar III was 12 to 14 years and it is still alive or it wouldn't still be transmitting. I was assigned a permanent sponsor number so apparently I am still a sponsor, though apparently a disenfranchised one until Sky Angel wakes up and decides to offer me free IPTV. As for the lifetime issue it was for the operating lifetime of the Dominion Sky Angel U.S. DBS service (with no mention of selling, bartering or giving away the licensed frequencies) and for the lifetime of the subscriber and his or her spouse. All the publicity hype seems to be that Sky Angel is alive and well with but a change of medium. Also note that the satellite is not yet dead or Sky Angel would not have had to file with the FCC requesting a transfer of the licensed frequencies to Echostar. So from a legal standpoint the satellite is still alive and I am still alive and only Sky Angel's choice of medium is at issue.

  13. Ed:  You really need to consider this from the correct information.  FCC frequencies apply to an orbital position not a satellite.  Companies are assigned frequencies at specific orbital positions.  Sky Angel's was 61.5 degrees.  Echo Star owns all the other frequencies at that position and is the only one who would have any reason to have a satellite there.  That Echo Star III is dead is obvious as DISH recently ( March 15) launched a satellite to replace it.  Would Echo Star launch a 300 million dollar satellite to replace it if it wasn't dead?  According to the letter they sent, (all the above info is in it), they said they tried to make a new deal with DISH for space on the new satellite but where unable to.  Since Echo Star is the only one with a satellite at that position they really have no choice.  Without a satellite, frequencies are meaningless.  Had they not started the new service, the satellite service would have ended and the Sky Angel vision and mission would have ceased to exist on March 31.  Doesn't sound like much of a choice to me?

  14. Ed: I agree with Bill.  He is right about how frequencies work.  I'm not sure how you get to where you are at.  You quoted language that supports what Sky Angel has been saying…that your contract ends at the end of your life or the end of "the operating life of the Dominion Sky Angel US DBS  service".  It does not say at the end of the life of the satellite although that could surely cause the end of the DBS operating service.  The language doesn't even say they have to give you a reason. The way I read it is that is there are a number of reasons that the operating life of the DBS service could have ended and Sky Angel could have used any reasonable reason a long time ago if it just wanted to end lifetime subscriptions.  They could have simply said they found the business to be unprofitable and the language would still apply.  It is a credit to them that they tried to make it work for so many years.  If it had been profitable they would have kept it and introduced the IPTV as well.  Why would they give up the income from the satellite service if it was profitable and they didn't have to?  One of the experts on another satellite blog has sated that the satellite is for all practical purposes no longer functional.  All the spares have burned out and less than half the satellite is still functional.  DISH apparently reached the conclusion that it was no longer serviceable or they wouldn't have had to launch a new satellite to replace it. My car may have four wheels but no engine and I could sit in it and have someone push…that doesn't make it functional.   I think you're riding a dead horse.

  15. The horse is indeed dead! But for the very reasons some of you have stated satellite owners milk them until either all transponders are dead or on-board fuel is exhausted. At least that's how we did it at NASA. Also we found in arbitration that a contract is most often brought to bear against the writer because he had an inordinate amount of time to prepare it. What orbital slot was Sky Angel going for with it's planned 2002 launch was it not 61.5? More than one satellite can occupy a slot if frequencies are different.

  16. Christian organization are not supose to deceive or lie to people and as Christian we are suppose to hold each other acountable otherwise we are no better than the unsaved world.

  17. I, too, am upset at losing Sky Angel.

    I bought shirts and did a LOT of free advertising for them for YEARS.

    I sent THOUSANDS of dollars to them to get the International Sky Angel Satellite up over the Middle East because I knew that the signal could not be jammed.


    Last I knew, that money I sent was a Directed Donation, and the Int'l satellite was what that DD was supposed to be used for.  No International satellite is active that I know of, and no refund. 

    Those of you saying we "did not lose anything"?

    Guess again!

  18. Bill seems to think Echostar is the only satellite at 61.5 however the slot was licensed to three carriers prior to Dominion releasing its frequencies. Echostar held license to 11 transponders, served from their satellite. SkyAngel held license to 8 transponders, served from Echostar's and VOOM held license to 11 transponders, served from its satellite, Rainbow 1. Do the math, two satellites.

  19. Phil, did NOT lose anything?  sorry but how dare you…………


    Besides my initial payment to sky angel , the dish and receiver (soon to be useless as its even outdated for dish network!) i am out TV service for the rest of my life! 

    Quick but definitely low figures if you assume a subscriber is in their 40's, will live to 70's.  then assume they will pay $25 a month with no increase for the rest of their life (and/or spouse).  with my calculations that works out to over $9000 dollars I will need to pay out over my lifetime in order to get tv service.


    Not that it is any of your business but my husband was disabled due to 9/11 .  Therefore we are on a fixed income.  so exactly where does this $9000+ come from in my budget?  That isn't figuring in DSL if I wanted IPTV, inflation, increased monthly fees, new equipment etc. It isn't even addressing the fact that we have young children still at home!


    I have even asked sky angel to show me what/where I ever agreed to these new terms eg life of satellite.  Guess what they never produce anything or even mail me anything as they agree to do.  


    I hadn't heard a word from sky angel in 10 years until they tried to charge me $5 more a month in june 07.  then 6 months later, again, guess what we are shutting off lifetime service letter arrives! 

    They have repeatedly lied to me.  For example when I call they will tell me they are "noting my account".  then guess what, call the following week, ask CS to look at "notes" there never are any there!  Call me back, they don't.  snail mail, agin nope.  They even went so far as to say I "should have read the notes on my monthly statements".  I tried to tell them lifetimers don't get monthly statements but they insisted we did.  furthermore even friends who  pay monthly and get statements say there were NO "memos" regarding end of DBS1


    I have gone almost to the top eg VP NAncy.  They are very much aware of my circumstances.  but not once have they ever even said send me proof of disability and I will see if we can do SOMETHING for you! No compassion, no help, nothing!

  20. The truth is, the blog is filling up and we have to close off the discussion thread. Some people are going to choose to be angry and bitter because they think Sky Angel owes them – even though there’s no evidence of that. Others are thrilled the gospel can continue to be broadcast through new technology. Life happens. My car breaks down, my plumbing goes out, and my TV breaks. But I don’t blame people – that’s the way life works. Ultimately you can choose to be bitter and let that anger eat at you, or you can choose to explore new technology, find alternatives, or adjust your lifestyle to the new reality. Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy it.

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