WildBlue Communications Inc.'s on-again/off-again relationship with the satellite video industry is back on again after it secured exclusive, five-year wholesale distribution deals with EchoStar Communications and DirecTV.

The deal is a major one for WildBlue, which will now be able to tap into a combined DBS subscriber base of more than 27 million customers.

Initially, DirecTV and EchoStar customers will need to use a separate dish to receive the high-speed data service.

EchoStar and DirecTV expect to begin marketing WildBlue services under their own respective brands in the "coming months." They said pricing information will be forthcoming.

Earlier this year, WildBlue secured a similar deal with AT&T Inc., which will market satellite broadband services in rural areas underserved by DSL and high-speed cable lines.

The deals with DirecTV and EchoStar "are a turning point for WildBlue," said WildBlue CEO David Leonard.

They are also a long time in coming. EchoStar, despite earlier high hopes, had already written off its $50 million investment in the Ka-band, Colorado-based satellite data service provider. It also wrote off a previous investment in Starband Communications.

DirecTV, meanwhile, used to be linked to the Ku-band-based service, Direcway, which is now part of Hughes Network Systems LLC and has recently been rechristened "HughesNet." DirecTV also had plans in place in the late 1990s to offer high-speed services via three satellites attached to the Spaceway project, but has since decided to use two Spaceway birds to expand its high-definition television capabilities.