Charlie Ergen Is “Cautiously Optimistic” About A Disney Deal

Dish Network’s chairman seems to be in sync with Disney CEO Bob Iger’s comments last week: Both execs say that they’re making progress toward a new program carriage agreement with Charlie Ergen telling analysts today that he’s “cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a deal done.” The companies agreed to keep talking, without a programming black out, at the end of September when their previous deal expired. Everyone’s been waiting to see how the companies would fare: Disney’s one of the broadcasters that sued Dish after it introduced its Hopper DVR which can automatically jump past ads in recorded programs. “Disney has not been one of our best relationships and part of that is my fault,” Ergen says. He wants to change that. “Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I’m getting too old to do business with people we don’t have a good relationship with just to make a buck….You don’t marry everyone you date. And Disney’s a very pretty girl.” As for the talks, “there’s always economic issues,” Ergen says. But they’re also looking at a lot of what-if questions regarding the future of television because Disney likes long term deals. “We don’t want to have to go back to Disney to ask permission to do something,” Ergen says. Since Disney is “further along in the technology curve” it’s been “a great negotiation because it’s forcing us to think of things.” And the Hopper isn’t a big issue. “It was more of an emotional thing than a reality thing,” Ergen says. He believes that programmers should be able to tap revenues from ads and distributor payments. But “you have to realize that the world has changed” — and people will find a way to zap ads. If broadcasters respond to Hopper by finding more effective ways to help advertisers reach audiences then it “will give them more revenue” Ergen says although he acknowledges that “it’s not a proven concept yet.” In any case, “we’re not going to negotiate on giving up a customer [service] that we think is important.”

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