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Can Charlie Ergen Still Go It Alone?

His EchoStar is facing bigger cable rivals -- and Murdoch's deep-pocketed DirecTV

Even in the mogul-eat-mogul world of media, it's hard to top Charles W. "Charlie" Ergen for pure tenacity. Starting in 1980 by selling an oversize backyard dish door to door across Colorado, the 51-year-old former professional blackjack player built EchoStar Communications Corp. (DISH ) into a $6 billion-a-year satellite-TV powerhouse. His m.o.: slashing prices to undercut rival cable rates and giving away free dishes.

But today the cable guys are far more formidable, having consolidated from 62 to 25 companies over the past decade, and Ergen's biggest satellite foe, DirecTV (DTV ), is now in the hands of Rupert Murdoch's deep-pocketed News Corp. (NWS ).