Charlie Ergen Talks Up Streaming Plans, Blasts Comcast And SportsNet LA

The Dish Network chairman offered updates about his planned streaming service, and poked Comcast and Time Warner Cable — including its struggle to distribute  Los Angeles Dodgers games on SportsNet LA — in his quarterly earnings call.

Dish is “running into a few snags” with the technology for its still-unnamed streaming service, but it remains on track to launch before year end, Charlie Ergen says. “To put those signals together and to be able to insert dynamic ads is a fairly complex project.” It will cost about $30 a month — and, to meet that price, “we won’t sign up every [programmer] because it’s kind of a skinny down package.” He’ll target 18-to-35 year olds who don’t already buy pay TV. With its sports programming including ESPN, “short-term it’s going to skew more male, and more urban, and more apartments as opposed to homes.” Since it’ll use the Internet, “you won’t have to wait for installation” and it will have an interface that’s “a little bit more user-friendly for consumers.” He adds that it’s “not going to change the world, but it has a long-term trajectory. That’s why we spend a lot of time with our programming partners discussing what might work.”

Ergen reiterated his opposition to Comcast’s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. “They’ll control over a majority of the broadband pipe in America. That’s a national product and they can do a lot of mischief.” For example, he notes that Dish is still waiting to get the rights to offer Comcast-controlled sports programming in Philadelphia. In addition, Bloomberg spent years trying to secure the right to have its TV channel positioned near Comcast-owned CNBC. “You just don’t want one company to have that kind of power in the Internet. That is something that would keep us up at night.”

Meanwhile, Ergen scoffed at TWC’s pricing for Dish and other pay TV distributors to carry SportsNet LA. “There is no way that the Dodgers are worth more than the [New York] Yankees. There’s just no way. If somebody comes in and says we want more than Yankee prices for a product that fewer people watch, nobody would do that deal. … If we lose some subs next quarter because we don’t carry a product but it’s the right thing to do and it increases our earnings and cash flow, that’s a decision were going to make.”

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