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Dish CEO Ergen (Again) Says DirecTV Merger ‘Inevitable’

On the heels of losing nearly 600,000 pay-TV subscribers in 2021, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen again advocated for his satellite TV operator’s business to merge with rival DirecTV Stream. Dish and DirecTV attempted to merge 20 years ago, but federal regulators cited the potential for a monopoly as a reason for their rejection.

But that was before over-the-top video, i.e., Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+, turned the pay-TV ecosystem on its ear. Dish ended 2021 with 8.2 million subscribers, about the same number of subs Dish had operating as EchoStar Communications in 2002. That was down from more than 8.8 million subs at the end of 2020. At its peak, Dish had more than 15 million subs.

Speaking on the Feb. 24 fiscal call, Ergen reiterated his view that a renewed merger with DirecTV makes a lot of sense in today’s pay-TV market.

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“I think it’s inevitable that Dish and DirecTV go together,” Ergen said. “Otherwise, both companies will just melt away, and there’ll be no service for customers. The regulatory reasons to not allow it, don’t exist anymore.”

AT&T, majority owner of DirecTV, a year ago spun off a minority stake/majority control of the business, including AT&T TV and U-verse pay-TV services, to private investment group TPG Capital for $16.25 billion. Merging the two platforms could result in $1 billion in cost savings.

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