Just when you thought it was time to rise from your stadium seat and assume a cable victory in its grudge match with the satellite providers, EchoStar Communications (NASDAQ:DISH), one of the two major satellite companies, slams home a goal. So sit tight, Fools. This one might not be over.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, EchoStar earned $153 million, up 15% from the $133 million in the final quarter of 2005. The company also reported $0.35 per basic share outstanding, compared with $0.30 in the year-earlier quarter.

Perhaps more importantly, the company added 350,000 new satellite subscribers during the quarter. That figure brings its total subscriber count to about 13.105 million, or within striking distance of Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), the second-largest of the cable companies. A year ago, EchoStar had 1.065 million subscribers. And for comparative purposes in the quarter, EchoStar's rival DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) added about 275,000 subscribers.

But EchoStar, whose share price has risen more than 40% in the past year, still appears to have a host of challenges ahead of it. Easily, the major obstacle to the company's growth will be the intensifying battle between satellite and cable for the hearts and eyeballs of American viewers.

Over the past couple of years, the major cable operators, including industry leader Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), have rolled out triple play offerings of video, high speed Internet access, and telephone service. This is a combination that satellite cannot now duplicate, and receiving a single "bundled" bill for the three services has proven attractive to consumers everywhere its been offered, including Europe. Indeed, speaking last month at a communications conference, News Corp. (NYSE:NWS) CEO Rupert Murdoch pointed to satellite's difficulty in competing with the triple play as the key reason that his company recently surrendered its stake in DirecTV.

At the same time, while cable's video-on-demand product has been slower to become accepted than many industry observers -- yours truly included -- might have expected, it nevertheless has reduced churn meaningfully among those subscribers who have tried it. And while satellite can offer something of an approximation of VOD, it remains technically precluded from providing the number of titles that cable can.

Also, EchoStar remains embroiled in litigation with digital video recorder manufacturer TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) over DVR patent infringements. From my perspective, it remains impossible to predict how that litigation will turn out.

But for now, an intensified marketing effort at the company appears to be working. In part for that reason, its revenues in the December quarter reached $2.58 billion, up 17% from the last quarter of 2005.

And so, I'm not inclined to warn Fools off of looking carefully at the shares of EchoStar. While I continue to believe that -- primarily for technology reasons -- cable will eventually be victorious in its expanding showdown with satellite, "eventually" could take a while to unfold. In the meantime, EchoStar appears to be delivering to both its subscribers and its shareholders.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments or questions.