The Dish Network chairman says he missed the boat with his strategy for Blockbuster: He told AllThingsD’s “D: Dive Into Media” conference today that he bought the video chain out of bankruptcy because he wanted to use the stores to sell a new wireless broadband service he’s developing. But that became moot when his effort took longer than he envisioned. Meanwhile, “we were too late” to the streaming business. “Under the radar [Netflix] got critical mass and [now] can buy any program that they want to,” Ergen says. “We didn’t have the guts to buy the content and start from scratch.” That doesn’t mean Amazon’s streaming service is doomed. “They both can be successful….Amazon can subsidize it.” But Ergen says he’s a “fan” of Netflix and its business model. The financing of the original series House Of Cards was “brilliant…I feel stupid that we didn’t think of it first.” The man behind the Hopper ad-skipping DVR — being challenged in court by broadcasters who say it violates their copyrights — also got some laughs by noting that Netflix has no commercials. “They’re not getting sued. You can watch 60 Minutes in 40 minutes.”
If you’re interested in Ergen, who rarely gives public interviews, then you should check out Peter Kafka’s masterfully handled and often funny conversation with the billionaire satellite mogul. In addition to the comments about Blockbuster, Ergen predicts that the days are numbered for the pay TV all-or-nothing programming bundle. “I think people are cutting the cord,” he says. Ergen is hopeful that he can find a partner to help with his wireless plans. He also addressed a recent BusinessWeek story that called Dish the “meanest company in America.” Ergen acknowledges that “there was some truth to it” — even though “the story was fairly superficial.” But he says it’s because he wants employees who take pride in their work and don’t consistently make excuses for themselves.