UPDATE: Dish And Disney Finalize Output Deal That Ends Their Ad-Hopper Dispute

By | Monday March 3, 2014 @ 5:20pm PST

hopperdvr__120524213652-1-3-2-2__130201224842UPDATE, 5:20 PM: The companies have officially announced a “wide-ranging” deal, which “will result in dismissal of all pending litigation between the two companies, including disputes over PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop.” The agreement calls for Dish to disable AutoHop functionality for ABC content within the C3 ratings window. The pact also for the first time allows Dish customers to access Disney’s authenticated live and VOD products. The full release is below the original story.

PREVIOUS, 3:59 PM: They both made big concessions as part of a new — and long-awaited — program carriage deal that Dish Network cut with Disney, The Wall Street Journal reports. disneyIt says that Dish Network has agreed to disable the Hopper DVR’s “Auto Hop” feature for ABC shows for the first three days after they air. Disney, in return, will drop out of broadcasters’ suit against Dish. They’ve said that the DVR’s feature that automatically jumps past ads on some recorded shows infringes on their copyrights and violates carriage contracts. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has steadfastly cast himself as a champion for his customers’ interests, saying that Hopper simply automates what DVR owners already can do with their remote controls. Now that Dish and Disney have agreed to allow ad zapping after three days, we’ll have to see whether other broadcasters can accept similar terms. CBS chief Les Moonves said in November that he’s “very flexible. We’re willing to negotiate.” Last month Ergen said that he was “cautiously optimisic” about striking a deal with Disney, in part because CEO Bob Iger — who’s also a member of Apple’s board – “has looked at [terms] in ways that others have not.” Read More »

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Dish Network Says Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal Will Create “Seismic Shift”

By | Friday February 21, 2014 @ 9:36am PST

DishNetwork__130702025735-200x151__130918204554__130927000627Chairman 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 … Read More »

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Les Moonves: CBS Is Willing To Negotiate With Dish Network Over Ad-Zapping DVR

By | Thursday November 14, 2013 @ 9:53am PST

The CBS chief is taking Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen at his word after he said this week that there’s a way for broadcasters to benefit from his Hopper DVR, which automatically zaps ads on recorded shows. “We’re very flexible. We’re willing to negotiate,” Les Moonves told investors today at the Guggenheim Securities TMT Symposium. Calling Ergen “a very smart man” he says “if there’s a way to do this that benefits everybody, we’re very open to it.” But the bottom line has to be that “we need to get paid for our content…. We spend $4M an episode for NCIS. I have to pay for it.” Broadcasters have sued Dish alleging that the Hopper infringes on their copyrights; Dish counters that it simply automates the ad skipping that DVR viewers already do. The fate of the device is an issue in Dish’s current program carriage negotiations with Disney. Ergen says the Hopper “has built-in technology that can target commercials to customers in a better [way]” and “give the broadcaster more revenue” — although he added that “it’s not a proven concept yet.” Read More »

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Dish Network Chief Says It’s Too Early For A Major Web Challenge To Pay TV

By | Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 10:53am PST

Don’t include Charlie Ergen among the small but growing group of industry watchers who believe cable and satellite companies could soon face competition from a company that offers a similar bundle of channels via the web. “It’s going to happen at some point in time,” the Dish Network chairman told analysts today. “But most programmers have been hesitant to embrace that kind of dramatic change. In the short term, it’s unclear that that’s going to happen.” Intel is one of the companies that wanted to become an online power — but now hopes to sell its venture, called On Cue. Verizon and Liberty Media are said to be interested. Dish isn’t. “We’re not in any discussions with Intel about their over-the-top product,” Ergen says. Still, he evangelized about the value of keeping one’s options open. Although “we’re not trying to drive over-the-top,” he says that “if things are going to change, then we want to be involved with it.” Read More »

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Charlie Ergen Is “Cautiously Optimistic” About A Disney Deal

By | Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 9:59am PST

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 … Read More »

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Dish Network & Charlie Ergen Sued By Shareholders Over $1B Debt Purchases

By | Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 5:18pm PDT

Dish Network, its chairman Charlie Ergen and several Board members were slapped this week with a potential multi-million dollar complaint by shareholders. And they want him and the individual Board members to pay up personally. In a verified shareholder derivative filing (read it here) on behalf of all Dish shareholders, the pension fund of Daytona Beach Police Officers’ and Firefighters Retirement System allege that since April 2013, Ergen has quietly been buying up more than $1 billion worth of debt from bankrupt wireless network company LightSquared, who Dish has a bid in for. Besides this big potential personal windfall for the Dish founder and controlling shareholder, the four-count complaint filed in federal court in Colorado on September 26, says Ergen also used a front company to put in a $2 billion bid for LightSquared in May 2013 to push up the auction price. “Thus, with this substantial debt purchase not only did Ergen take for himself (in stealth-like fashion) a strategic opportunity that was otherwise available to Dish, he did so knowing that his personal risk was minimized because the Company’s strategic plans already included purchasing more spectrum,” says the dense and detailed complaint. On July 23 of this year, Dish put in a $2.2 billion bid for LightSquared’s assets after a committee the company formed to look into a conflict of interest by Ergen was suddenly disbanded by the Board two days before. Read More »

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Will Dish Network And DirecTV Resist Wall Street’s Pressure On Them To Merge?

By | Wednesday August 7, 2013 @ 12:40pm PDT

Investors are becoming so obsessed with the idea of a DirecTV-Dish Network merger that it seems to be just a matter of time before the companies succumb. Questions about the possibility kept popping up in Dish Network’s quarterly earnings call yesterday. Company watchers “seem to be fixated” on the subject, Brean Capital’s Todd Mitchell says. And execs don’t seem to mind. Last week DirecTV CEO Michael White said he’d “never say never.” And Evercore Partners’ Bryan Kraft says he has “never heard [Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen] speak as openly and positively regarding the possibility of a combination with DirecTV” as he did yesterday. The FCC blocked a satellite TV merger in 2002 on the grounds that it would leave many rural subscribers, who don’t have cable, with just one pay TV provider. But Ergen says that the business is “materially different” than it was then. Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse serve many markets. “And then of course, you have almost an unlimited number of people now on digital Internet getting into the business, whether it be from Netflix to Hulu to Amazon to everything else that you can do on the Internet,” Ergen says. “And that’s only going to grow.” Later he added that “there’s not any question that putting Dish and DirecTV together makes a lot of sense…. If you just wanted to create short-term value, that would be probably your No. 1 option.” Read More »

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John Malone To Charlie Ergen: Merge Dish With DirecTV For The Industry’s Sake

By | Thursday July 11, 2013 @ 3:26pm PDT

John Malone is the largest individual investor in DirecTV and a former kingpin of pay TV, so why not offer advice to the satcaster’s lone rival? That’s just what he did Thursday at Allen & Co.’s … Read More »

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Dish Network Takes On $1B In Debt Which May Fuel Spectrum Deals

The announcement provided a slight upward jolt to the satellite company’s stock this morning. Dish says that it will sell $1B in senior notes — details will come later in an SEC filing. But the press release pointedly says that … Read More »

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Dish Network Execs’ Compensation Cut In 2012 Despite Stock Gain

By | Friday March 22, 2013 @ 1:53pm PDT

Dish NetworkHere’s something you rarely see in Big Media: Dish Network — one of the industry’s most frugal companies when it comes to executive compensation — cut the outlays for most top execs, with CEO … Read More »

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Charlie Ergen: Dish’s Blockbuster Didn’t Have “Guts” To Challenge Netflix

By | Tuesday February 12, 2013 @ 4:33pm PST

The Dish Network chairman says he missed the boat with his strategy for Blockbuster: He told AllThingsD’s “D: Dive Into Media” conference today that he bought the video chain out of bankruptcy because he wanted to use the stores to sell a new wireless broadband service he’s developing. But that became moot when his effort took longer than he envisioned. Meanwhile, “we were too late” to the streaming business. “Under the radar [Netflix] got critical mass and [now] can buy any program that they want to,” Ergen says. “We didn’t have the guts to buy the content and start from scratch.” That doesn’t mean Amazon’s streaming service is doomed. “They both can be successful….Amazon can subsidize it.” But Ergen says he’s a “fan” of Netflix and its business model. The financing of the original series House Of Cards was “brilliant…I feel stupid that we didn’t think of it first.” The man behind the Hopper ad-skipping DVR — being challenged in court by broadcasters who say it violates their copyrights — also got some laughs by noting that Netflix has no commercials. “They’re not getting sued. You can watch 60 Minutes in 40 minutes.” Read More »

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Would Regulators Allow DirecTV To Merge With Dish Network?

By | Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 1:43pm PST

That long-debated question on Wall Street took on new urgency today after Bernstein Research’s Craig Moffett bet that the companies will make a deal, and that it will be approved by the FCC and antitrust officials. This morning he raised his target stock price for each company by $9 (to $72 for DirecTV and $37 for Dish) “to reflect the increased probability of a merger.” Why now? Dish seems to have leverage over the FCC, which wants to promote competition in broadband and telephony more than it wants to block media mergers. Charlie Ergen’s company has been amassing wireless spectrum that “offers the prospect of either a fixed wireless broadband network to compete with cable, or, alternatively, a new competitor for mobile wireless to compete with Verizon and AT&T,” Moffett says. “Either would be a tremendous regulatory (and political) win” for the government. By year-end regulators likely will help their cause, and Ergen’s, by giving Dish permission to use its spectrum for terrestrial services. But the approval will include a timetable requiring Dish to deploy its services quickly. That gives Ergen the opportunity to tell regulators that he’ll proceed — but only if they enable Dish to combine with DirecTV, Cost savings and other benefits could amount to $3.5B a year, which Moffett says is “a staggering sum.” Read More »

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Dish Network Chief Says AMC Deal Could Pay Off With More Hits Like ‘Walking Dead’

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen can change his tune on an issue more elegantly than just about anyone in the media business. Consider how easily he just reversed himself in an analyst call where he explained his company’s agreement to resume carrying AMC Networks’ channels, which he dropped in June. He brought them back as part of the $700M deal to settle AMC’s breach of contract suit against Dish after it ended a 15-year agreement to carry the now defunct VOOM HD networks. Ergen noted that AMC’s hit The Walking Dead is “off the charts.” If the channel has more shows like that “then it will be a fair deal for us.” And he likes the AMC folks. “Absent the litigation we probably wouldn’t have gotten to that point” of dropping the channels. That’s a head-spinning shift from three months ago when he said it was a question of cost, not courts. AMC’s networks were too expensive, he said then, especially since “our customers are not looking at zombies in New York City… They live on farms and ranches.” What’s more, he preferred doing business with Mark Cuban, whose HDNet channels took the slots formerly held by AMC’s services.

Related: Dish Network Misses Q3 Expectations As It Absorbs VOOM And Hopper Costs Read More »

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Dish Network Chairman Slams AMC Networks’ “Zombies In New York City”

By | Wednesday August 8, 2012 @ 10:45am PDT

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen warned analysts in a conference call today that his company will lose some customers — or have trouble attracting new ones — since it dropped AMC, IFC, WEtv, and Sundance in late June. But he says the decision was a “no-brainer” that will pay off for Dish in the long run. “Our customers are not looking at zombies in New York City”, he said referring to AMC’s hit The Walking Dead. “They live on farms and ranches”. Ergen added that he might have renewed AMC, but bucked at the company’s requirement that Dish also carry the other networks. “There hasn’t been a time when anyone in our family has watched one second of those channels”. He was also dismissive of AMC which has acclaimed series including Mad Men and Breaking Bad. “They’re critically acclaimed but not viewed as much by our audience”, he says. “And our customers can go to iTunes and get Mad Men the same time it’s on. We could pay the entire iTunes bill and it would be cheaper” than carrying the AMC Networks channels. Indeed, Ergen says that by not carrying the AMC channels Dish will be “several dollars cheaper than our competition that’s carrying those channels”.

Related: Dish Network Q2 Earnings Miss Wall Street’s Targets As Profits Fall Read More »

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Dish Network Founder Blasts Broadcasters Over Retransmission Consent Tactics

Charlie Ergen Dish NetworkAfter years of eschewing the public spotlight, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen showed today at a congressional hearing that he hasn’t lost his keen debating skills. He skewered broadcast stations for acting as “a government-sponsored monopoly” when demanding higher fees from pay TV providers under the federal retransmission consent rules — and withdrawing programming when negotiations break down. “The problem is only getting worse — with more blackouts and more broadcaster abuses,” he told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology’s hearing today on the Future of Video. ”From where we sit, the broadcasters cling to the status quo instead of meeting consumer demand and embracing new technologies and business models.” Ergen added that while stations demand payments for pay TV carriage of their over-the-air signals, their commitment to localism “has gone down” — for example many stations have begun to share newscasts. “The retransmission consent regime is a prime example of an outdated government policy in need of an overhaul by Congress and the FCC.” One way to fix things, he says, would be to allow pay TV companies to import signals from network affiliates in other markets when negotiations with the local station break down. “Then you have the free market system working.” Read More »

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Will AMC Networks Go Nuclear In Its Battle With Dish Network?

Mad Men AMC

UPDATE, 11:00 AM: AMC Networks tells me that CEO Josh Sapan didn’t mean to leave an impression that he might help digital streaming services – and therefore promote pay TV cord-cutting — if Dish Network drops his channels. He really meant that he would only consider helping another traditional pay TV provider when he responded to a question about how he’ll deal with “other distributors who might want to capture subscribers who want access to (AMC’s) programming.” His answer: “We think that the potential absence of our service and services on any platform by definition creates a sort of competitive opportunity for another platform. It is a very competitive world for multichannel video. So we’ll watch it as it goes. Of course, we’re contemplating it and making all sorts of contingency plans.”

PREVIOUS, 8:40 AM: Talk about Mad Men, or even Walking Dead: AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan vaguely hints this morning that he might promote pay TV cord-cutting if Dish Network follows through with its plan to drop AMC, IFC, WeTV, and Sundance Channel in June. Sapan’s making contingency plans, and they apparently include offering more programming to a streaming service — in effect, encouraging consumers to cancel their pay TV subscriptions. Dish’s decision “creates a competitive opportunity for another platform,” Sapan says. “AMC is among the most critical services one can have to succeed” in pay TV and in the streaming world. “We’re in a fairly strong position.”

Related: AMC Networks Tops Q1 Earnings Estimates As Ad Sales Outpace Rising Costs

It was a pointed rebuttal to Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen’s damaging comment early this week that he plans to drop AMC’s channels because set top box data shows they have low viewership — suggesting that other pay TV providers also might consider them expendable. Sapan says that’s bogus. “We think today AMC in particular is one of the most popular services on the television dial.” The real issue, he says, is that Ergen wants to force AMC to scrap its 4-year-old $2.5B breach of contract suit which involves Dish’s decision Read More »

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Dish Network Doles Out (Somewhat) Big Raises For Top Execs In 2011

By | Friday March 23, 2012 @ 4:18pm PDT

We need to keep things in perspective. Compensation for all of Dish Network’s top five officers came to $14.2M — far less than Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman’s $43.1M package, or Disney chief Bob Iger’s $33.4M. Still, it’s a big deal … Read More »

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Dish Network Closes Spectrum Deals

By | Monday March 12, 2012 @ 7:50am PDT

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen told analysts last month that he might scrap his efforts to buy TerreStar Networks and DBSD North America — which control coveted spectrum licenses — if the FCC didn’t grant a waiver relaxing its build-out requirements. But he just closed the deals, even though he lost that battle as the FCC develops rules for the spectrum that would apply to everybody. Ergen has said that Dish needs spectrum to move away from being just a satellite TV service. If he offers wireless broadband, then it could ensure that he wouldn’t be held hostage by cable operators as Dish-owned Blockbuster develops video streaming initiatives. He can always change his mind: If Ergen wants to get rid of the spectrum, AT&T or DirecTV probably would buy in a heartbeat. Dish shares are down 1.1% in early trading. Here’s the announcement: Read More »

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Dish Network Shares Rocketing On Speculation Of AT&T Deal

By | Tuesday December 20, 2011 @ 11:53am PST

Dish is up 9.1% in afternoon trading partly based on a theory that the satellite company is in AT&T’s sights now that it has abandoned its effort to merge with T-Mobile. Stifel Nicolaus’ Christopher King is among the analysts who say that it makes sense: AT&T craves spectrum, but it has few places to get it. The Justice Department and FCC nixed the idea of a merger with another wireless phone company. Cable operators also are out after their recent agreement to sell the spectrum they control to Verizon Wireless. That would seem to leave  Dish, even though it was one of the loudest opponents of AT&T’s deal with T-Mobile. Dish founder Charlie Ergen has been amassing spectrum — including some in the 700 megahertz band, which is where AT&T is building its 4G network — to help create his own national broadband and video-streaming service. The satellite company has said that it would like to find a partner to  help pay for his ambitious plan, and identified T-Mobile as a possibility. And even though Ergen says Verizon and AT&T need another competitor, he didn’t rule out a deal with AT&T when asked last month about the possibility. “If the merger is not allowed then it could be” an option, he said in a conference call with analysts. Read More »

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