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.

Report: Dish, DirecTV Merger Getting Second Wind

U.S. satellite-based pay-TV operators Dish and DirecTV have oft been the speculation of a merger, with politics and government regulation impeding a deal. But with the satellite TV market continuing to decline due to ongoing consumer migration toward over-the-top video, the competing companies reportedly are keen again to consummate an agreement.

Indeed, DirecTV has seen a 40% drop in subscribers to 15 million from 25 million subs in 2017. Dish ended its most-recent fiscal period with 8.4 million subs — down from almost 9 million subs in the year-ago period.

DirecTV parent AT&T last year spun off a minority stake (and operational control) of the satellite operator, online platform AT&T TV and cable service U-verse to private equity firm TPG Capital for $8 billion. The consolidated companies were then rebranded DirecTV Stream.

“TPG is driving the conversations. They want their investment back,” a source close to the negotiations told The New York Post.

Dish founder/CEO Charlie Ergen has long advocated for a merger of the two companies — albeit on his terms.

“In terms of DirecTV and Dish, I mean obviously I think that those two companies go together, that’s inevitable,” he said on Dish’s most-recent fiscal call.

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Ergen believes that in the current market, regulatory concerns have been minimized due to the continued rollout of broadband nationwide and ongoing competition from programmers themselves launching streaming platforms. In 2020, the DOJ reportedly quashed a merger between DirecTV and Dish, citing 5G’s sputtering rollout nationwide.

The next-generation wireless format is seen as a competitive alternative against any possible satellite TV market control DirecTV and Dish might wield.

“I think it’s a timing issue more than anything else,” said Ergen, who reportedly wants a seat at the head of the table of the merged distributors.

Regardless, with satellite distribution dying in the U.S., a combined DirectTV/Dish unit would be preferred, especially for rural and RV customers dependent on satellite service.

“The FCC and DOJ would likely both conclude that having one strong satellite competitor is better than none at all — and the future is not terribly bright even together, but especially alone,” Craig Moffett, analyst with MoffettNathanson, told The Post.

John Swieringa Named President and COO of Dish Wireless

Dish Network has named John Swieringa president and chief operating officer of Dish Wireless.

In this expanded role, he will be responsible for all operational aspects of Dish’s wireless business including the deployment and management of Dish’s virtualized, O-RAN 5G broadband network. John also will continue to lead Dish’s retail wireless.

“John’s a 14-year veteran of Dish and is committed to changing the way the world communicates with our unique capabilities,” said Charlie Ergen, Dish co-founder and chairman, to whom Swieringa reports. “His experience in our overall business will help to maximize our wireless opportunities within all lines of the business. He and his team will deploy and monetize Dish’s network while advancing our retail, enterprise and wholesale market opportunities.”

“I am excited to lead and further integrate our wireless strategy, deployment and operations efforts,” Swieringa said in a statement. “We have a significant opportunity as we prepare to commercialize our wireless investments and deliver value to our customers, company and shareholders.”

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Swieringa’s direct reports include Stephen Bye, EVP and chief commercial officer; Dave Mayo, EVP of network development; Marc Rouanne, EVP and chief network officer; and Stephen Stokols, EVP of retail wireless.

Dish Adds 117,000 Q3 Sling TV Subs, Down 42% From a Year Ago

Dish Nov. 4 said it added 117,000 Sling TV subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That compared with the addition of approximately 203,000 net Slings subs  during the same period in 2020. The decrease was primarily related to higher subscriber disconnects, partially offset by higher Sling subscriber activations.

“We continue to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers,” Dish said in a statement.

Dish, which is transitioning into wireless spectrum, broadband and telecommunications (Boost Mobile) businesses, ended the quarter with 10.9 million total pay-TV subs, including 8.4 million satellite customers and 2.5 million Sling subs. Dish has lost 541,000 pay-TV subs year-over-year.

Regardless, pay-TV revenue increased 9% in the quarter to $3.22 billion, from revenue of $3.19 billion a year ago. Operating income dropped 13% to $699 million, from $803 million in the previous-year period.

Dish Bows New $1.5 Billion Debt Offering

Dish Network has big plans in the wireless and telecom business. To help fund its way and pay off existing debt, the corporate parent of satellite pay-TV distribution and online TV platform Sling TV announced that on May 10, its subsidiary, Dish DBS Corp., priced a long-term debt offering of $1.5 billion.

Net proceeds of the bond sale are intended to be used for general corporate purposes, including refinancing of indebtedness. The offering is expected to close on May 24 subject to customary conditions.

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Last December, Dish issued $2 billion in long-term bonds, using the proceeds to for its nascent wireless spectrum business.

Sling TV in the first quarter of this year lost 100,000 subs, an improvement from a loss of 281,000 subs in the previous-year period. The platform ended the three-month period, which ended March 31, with 2.37 million subs, compared with 2.47 million subs at the end of 2020.

Vizio Appoints Former AMC Networks, Dish Exec VP of Network Partnerships

Consumer electronics company Vizio has appointed former AMC Networks and Dish executive Adam Gaynor VP of network partnerships.

In this role, Gaynor will help build direct relationships with networks across Vizio’s SmartCast platform and its advertiser-direct business unit Vizio Ads.

“Adam’s addition to the team represents Vizio’s continued focus and investment in driving the future of TV,” Mike O’Donnell, chief revenue officer at Vizio, said in a statement. “Not only does Adam have extensive experience working with networks, but he has been at the forefront of championing addressable advertising, going back to his previous efforts driving live linear addressable advertising at AMC Networks and Dish.”

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In addition to spearheading network relationships, Gaynor will be heavily involved in advancing Project Open Addressable Ready (Project OAR), a technology consortium led by Vizio and created to advance the development and deployment of a new, open standard for addressable advertising on connected TVs. The consortium recently announced live market trials with network partners such as Fox, ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, E.W. Scripps and AMC Networks.

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“Vizio is building the next generation of home entertainment, powered by data and personalized consumer experiences,” Gaynor said in a statement. “I’m excited to join the team to advance VIZIO’s initiatives on the network and addressable front, enabling advertisers to deliver more precise messages to their intended audiences at the right time.”

Before joining Vizio, Gaynor was most recently VP of AMCN Agility, the data solutions sales team for AMC Networks. There, he created and oversaw the development and monetization of all advanced and data-driven TV advertising opportunities across the AMC Networks portfolio. He also served as VP, media sales and analytics for Dish Network, where he led the company’s media sales division, inclusive of all addressable, interactive, programmatic and OTT initiatives. Gaynor also held posts at Game Show Network, Comcast and CBS.

Sling TV Gets New Group President

Michael Schwimmer has been named group president of Sling TV, following the departure of Warren Schlichting, Dish Network Corp. announced.

Schwimmer, who returned to Dish in June 2019 to lead international business development and strategy, will report to Dish CEO Erik Carlson.

During his career at Dish, which began in 1996, Schwimmer led the company’s marketing, programming and media sales organizations and played a key role in launching the Dish International and DishLATINO brands. In addition to his work on Sling TV’s international business, he honed his over-the-top expertise at Fuse Media, where he served as president and CEO. In his new role, Schwimmer will be responsible for all aspects of the Sling TV business. He has also assumed responsibility for Dish Media Sales.

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Kevin Arrix, SVP, Dish Media Sales, will now report to Schwimmer, and will continue to be responsible for the company’s advertising sales, analytics and operations.

Dish Launches Offer for Military, Veterans and First Responders

On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, Dish has launched a new special customer offer tailored to active duty military, veterans and first responders.

The offer gives qualifying new and existing customers complimentary custom programming, a monthly family movie night courtesy of Dish and the ability to watch TV anywhere.

“Dish understands that life can be complex for military and first responders, and sometimes they just want to unwind,” Jay Roth, chief marketing officer at Dish, said in a statement. “From providing a monthly On Demand family movie night, to making sure they can stream hometown content while deployed, we designed this new offer as a way to enjoy time with loved ones and relax at the end of a long day. It’s all part of our commitment to being ‘Tuned In To You.’”

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With the new offer, qualifying customers will receive the below benefits at no additional cost, valued at more than $500 over two years, according to Dish:

 

  • “Stars and Stripes Pack,” which features access to a suite of custom-curated channels, including Starz Encore Westerns, Smithsonian Channel, American Heroes Channel and more;
  • “monthly family movie night,” offering the first On Demand movie rental each month at no cost; and
  • “TV anywhere you go,” a DVR upgrade to a compatible Hopper family set-top box, allowing qualified participants to stream 100% of live and recorded TV to mobile devices with Dish Anywhere with no upfront upgrade fees required.

 

Earlier this month, Dish also unveiled a special offer for new customers 55 and older, including free On Demand content and a discount on worry-free protection with the Dish Gold protection package.

Kagan Research Finds Legacy Video Sub Losses Accelerated in Q4 2018

Traditional multichannel video subscription losses swelled in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to research from Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Kagan’s fourth-quarter 2018 U.S. Multichannel Subscription Report tallied legacy video subs under 90 million. Combined, the cable, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and telecom multichannel sectors lost nearly 1.1 million subscriptions in the fourth quarter, which pushed the full-year decline to 4 million, according to the report. DBS services accounted for more than half of the annual loss.

Virtual platforms partially offset the traditional multichannel declines, keeping those customers in a subscription package of live linear channels, but gains to services such as Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV were not enough to prevent the space from shrinking, according to the report. Traditional and virtual multichannel subscriptions combined fell nearly 1.3 million for the year.

Additional findings in the report were: 

  • The residential penetration rate for virtual and traditional multichannel services ticked down to 75% in the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • Multiple-system operators (MSOs) wrapped up 2018 with another round of quarterly losses, bringing the platform’s annual decline to nearly 1.3 million, versus a drop of 997,000 in 2017.
  • Telco video services cut combined annual subscriber losses for a second consecutive year, losing 351,000 subs to end 2018 at 10.3 million.
  • DirecTV and Dish each lost more than 1 million subs in 2018.

Dish to Give $1 per Dish Anywhere App Download in December to Toys for Tots

Dish has launched a holiday-giving initiative called “Dollars for Downloads” to benefit the Marine Toys for Tots Program. For every Dish Anywhere app that customers download to compatible devices this December, DISH will donate $1 to Toys for Tots, helping the organization in its mission of delivering toys and books to underserved children, according to the company.

“We’re excited to partner with Toys for Tots and give back to the communities Dish customers know and love,” said Jay Roth, Dish chief marketing officer, in a statement. “By simply downloading the free Dish Anywhere app, our customers can join us in supporting the holiday dreams of thousands of children this season.”

Dish Anywhere is a free app that gives customers the ability to watch their live and recorded content, as well as thousands of on-demand titles, from any location on internet-connected mobile devices, including smart phones, tablets and computers, and televisions via Amazon Fire TV and Android TV, according to Dish.

“Some folks may not realize that when you sign up for Dish, it’s like you’re getting two different subscriptions — the most reliable TV experience from the comfort of your living room, as well as the ability to watch your live and recorded programs and stream on-demand content via our DISH Anywhere app,” said Roth in a statement. “Downloading our free app this holiday season helps to spread joy to thousands of Toys for Tots kids, with the added benefit of access to TV while on-the-go at places like malls and airports.”

Toys for Tots has been delivering toys, books and other gifts to disadvantaged children since 1947. The program distributes an average of 18 million gifts annually and has given to more than 251 million children across 800 communities nationwide in its 71-year history.

“Dollars for Downloads” is a DISH Cares initiative, supporting the program’s focus on military support and youth empowerment, according to Dish. Dish employees participate in holiday toy drives at its Denver headquarters and nationwide satellite offices through Dish Cares, donating thousands of gifts to children and seniors each year, according to the company.