Chairman Charlie Ergen made the comment to analysts today noting that Comcast’s proposed $42.5B acquisition of Time Warner Cable would concentrate broadband, video, and content in “a single company…That’s going to send a seismic shift across our industry in ways we can’t predict today.” While he isn’t ready yet to take a formal position — he wants to see the companies’ formal filings and talk with his board first — he says a merger “increases the risk to everybody else” in the business. It also “doesn’t hurt” the case for a merger of Dish and DirecTV. If it’s OK to combine the No 1 and No. 4 pay TV companies, then it’s “hard to see why you couldn’t put the No. 2 and No. 3 providers together.”
Ergen challenged Comcast and TWC’s claims that they don’t compete. “They certainly do. They compete for content.” For example, last summer, if CBS had to negotiate a new carriage contract with Comcast and TWC — as opposed to just TWC — then “CBS would probably be paying them to keep it up. Dish doesn’t have that kind of scale…We send our check every month with a smile.” He added that one “reasonable concession for the Comcast team to make” would be to tie the rates it pays for programming to the prices that other distributors pay — known as a Most Favored Nation agreement. “The merger is of enormous scale and the way Washington will look at it ultimately will be as it relates to consumers.”
On a separate, but related, matter, Ergen says that he’s looking at the possibility of creating a nationwide Internet-delivered video service although there’s “nothing imminent.” Consumers will have additional choices online because “the technology can give you a better customer experience.” Programmers “have been fairly reluctant to transition” although Dish is “open to talking to all of them….When they’re ready, I’ll be ready.” He praised streaming service Aereo for having “started the conversation for a better consumer experience” but didn’t take sides in its dispute with broadcasters. Station owners say Aereo infringes on their copyrights when it streams their over-the-air signals. Aereo counters that it just leases technology to consumers that they already can use to watch broadcast TV for free.