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Will Dish & DIRECTV Merge?

Tilted view of satellite dish on white multi-story house --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Q. I’ve been a DIRECTV subscriber for years, but I hate AT&T, which now owns them. Is there any chance that AT&T will sell DIRECTV, maybe to Dish? — Bob, Indianapolis.

Bob, your lament is quite common among DIRECTV subscribers, many of whom send me e-mails voicing frustration with their satellite TV service since AT&T bought it for $67 billion in 2015.

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The complaints often say DIRECTV’s customer service has declined appreciably since the AT&T takeover. There’s also a general feeling that AT&T is less interested in introducing new and innovative services, something DIRECTV has been known for over the years.

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AT&T’s purchase of DIRECTV, the nation’s number one satellite TV operator, has not gone well for the telco, either. Since the sale was made official, DIRECTV has lost roughly two million customers. The spread of cord-cutting is certainly a cause, but subscriber dissatisfaction over DIRECTV’s annual price hikes, and AT&T’s uncertain stewardship of the satcaster, are factors as well.

So, to your question, will AT&T sell DIRECTV? Has the company grown tired of trying to keep an expensive TV service profitable when so many Americans are seeking lower-cost alternatives such as Netflix or Hulu?

I think the answer is yes, and it wouldn’t surprise me if AT&T sold DIRECTV to Dish in the coming months.

Dish is the nation’s second largest satellite TV service with slightly less than 10 million subscribers. (DIRECTV still has more than 18 million.) While Dish is also losing customers to cord-cutting, and the expansion of streaming options, the acquisition of DIRECTV would give it a total of 27 million satellite TV subscribers. That would make Dish the nation’s largest pay TV company. (And the number would reach 30 million when you add in Sling TV, Dish’s live streaming service, which has 2.47 million subscribers.)

With roughly 30 million subscribers, and no competition in the satellite TV category, Dish could stay profitable for years by generating more advertising, and pressuring programmers to offer lower carriage fees. (Think of it. Few programmers would want their channels suddenly removed from a pay TV service that reaches more than 30 million homes.)

You might say the federal government would frown upon approving a merger that would give so much power to one video company, particularly considering that the FCC rejected a merger between Dish and DIRECTV in 2002 on grounds it would be anti-competitive.

But with the rise of streaming, the pay TV business (cable, satellite, telcos) no longer dominates the video category as it did 17 years ago. Consumers today have a multitude of video options, and the number is growing almost daily. Dish and DIRECTV could even argue that the merger/sale is necessary now to keep the satellite TV business afloat in the coming years.

For AT&T, the sale would give the company a chance to re-set its strategy, and focus entirely on the streaming business. AT&T now owns the live streamer, DIRECTV Now, but it plans to soon rename it AT&T TV Now. (Yes, the name change could have something to do with the sale of DIRECTV, the satellite service, and the DIRECTV brand name.) The company also owns HBO and it plans to offer multiple streaming services under that brand name.

I have no inside knowledge that talks between AT&T and Dish are ongoing, but Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has publicly lusted after DIRECTV for years. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would be most interested in making a deal. And there’s no doubt in my mind that AT&T’s top executives would like an escape hatch for DIRECTV.

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— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1738 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

61 Comments on Will Dish & DIRECTV Merge?

  1. Charlie is to cheap for NFL ticket / RSN’s / NHL CI / MLB EI / NBA LP / etc. And they will need that for the sports bar tv packages

    • Karen Wise // August 5, 2019 at 5:18 pm // Reply

      We’ve have had Direct for 20 yrs
      Now they have removed 4 local channels..
      Cant wait for CTI & fiber optics coming to town in Il.

  2. Donnell Calhoun // August 5, 2019 at 2:47 pm // Reply

    I too have been with directv for over 15 years and hated when At&T bought them. I should have left then but stook around to see if they had improved on anything and the answer is NO. I hate anything AT&T is involved in

    • Ethan Donahue // August 5, 2019 at 3:54 pm // Reply

      Rumor has it that the NFL is not keeping that exclusive to DirecTV after the current deal is up.

  3. Romie Jagminas // August 5, 2019 at 3:34 pm // Reply

    Charlie Ergan does everything on the cheap. It’s a wonder that Dish still has a customer base. While at the Arizona uplink site for Dish, couldn’t find enough rack screws to mount equipment in racks. The electric screwdrivers didn’t have any batteries for them and every time the techs ordered some new ones, the request was denied. Those are some of the small things.

  4. Debbie Gregory // August 5, 2019 at 3:35 pm // Reply

    I read your article on ATT possibly selling Directv. I hate ATT as well and I’ve been a Directv subscriber for more years than i can remember, it is going downhill fast. But i live in an area with unreliable internet, plus i like having everything in one site. Too bad we can’t vote for the sale.

  5. I left at@t when they would not make me a deal on new phones and new plan. Payed off my 2 phone’s. and they still wanted 240 a month. So i went to another carrier. Now. same stuff with direct tv. I allready ordered a different carrier. At@t are a bunch of greety people. Good luck loosers.

  6. Ethan Donahue // August 5, 2019 at 3:53 pm // Reply

    This is stupid. I have been a DISH supporter for over 20 years. Had to ditch them for an IPTV cuz they keep dropping content and raising prices. But years ago they tried to buy DirecTV when GM was selling it off and the DOJ and SEC said it would create a monopoly and blocked the merger. What’s different now?

  7. I’ve had DirecTV for years but this bickering by att for more money from local stations is pathetic.
    Also i purchased the first tiers for certain stations. I don’t need to watch any political or cooking or infomercial or religious stations
    Please sell me a package i want

    • Amen on DirectTV and AT&T.
      After 10 years finally left DirectTv due to customer service issues with AT&T. Too many times double billings, constant price hikes and lack of customer service. Hate AT&T. They should go under!

  8. From knowledge inside DISH, several executives have spoken out that it is a matter of when. Not if. They’ve talked as soon as 3 months or as far as 3 years. With DISH & AT&T collaborating on the Locast funding to combat local channel costs, DISH is looking to acquire DTV.

  9. Enrica Funari // August 5, 2019 at 5:37 pm // Reply

    That would be amazing, as I like Dish network and Direct of course,,hope it happens!

  10. Deborah C Haydock // August 5, 2019 at 5:37 pm // Reply

    I have not been able to watch CBS or CW since July 3rd when Nexstar pulled the programming from DirecTV. I haven’t seen any updates on this. All I see is CBS and DirecTV has not come to an agreement. Any updates

  11. Olan B Brewer // August 5, 2019 at 5:58 pm // Reply

    We have been a subscriber to Dish since 1994 and in the last year it is a joke. The monthly fee keeps going up and have lost HBO and showtime. The only thing left to watch is old movies, news programs, and sport channels that we don’t care for. After being a loyal subscribers all these years we are seriously considering cancelling DISH.

  12. Lorri Hudson // August 5, 2019 at 6:04 pm // Reply

    Why are the people who paid for those satellites to be sent up in the sky, being jacked around. This just isn’t good business!! I read that Nexstar doesn’t believe that we should continue receiving our Network channels for free!! I don’t know about y’all…but I pay for my network channels!?? So I have a question? Is this all about Nexstar..or DirecTV?? It’s all BS!!!

  13. June pitti // August 5, 2019 at 6:14 pm // Reply

    I have been with direct TV for more than a year my bill was 69.82 month this month my Bill is$223.68 they tell me I was getting promotions well let me tell u my screen goes blank every day on and off make a long story short I called and told them to comes pick up the equipment. I’m done with them. I feel like they owe me credit.

  14. Donnell Calhoun // August 5, 2019 at 6:33 pm // Reply

    You know every since they took over it do seem like their is more disruption then before. I never use to have outrageous or interference

  15. AT&T is the absolute worst. Before the acquisition of DirecTV by AT&T, DirecTV was by far the best customers service I’ve ever dealt with. My experience with AT&T has been horrible. I don’t care if a bubble gum company acquires DirecTV, It would be far superior to AT&T. My plan to dump AT&T is already in place and may be happening in a few weeks. A new owner would be welcomed by me and could possibly keep me around for now. If not, I’ll be cutting that cord soon.

  16. Ron Clifton // August 5, 2019 at 6:50 pm // Reply

    Been Dish customer for over 20 years but them dropping Fox RSNs has really made me mad. For the 1st time in a long time. I’m looking at alternatives, but not Direct. I had it with At&t many years ago. Following merger rumors closely.

    • I wouldn’t have direct if it was free. I was not given anything I was promised spent most of my time on the phone complaining cancelled after 7 weeks and the hit my credit card for $330 and now in a dispute i never authorized the charge, they had my Bill down to $48 but Cincinnati bell was a hundred. I hope they go bankrupt they lie lie lie..

  17. Kimberly Godfrey // August 5, 2019 at 7:07 pm // Reply

    AT&T ruins everything they touch. They bought my cell phone provider. I switched the minute I found out. People I know who stayed with them have left for varying reasons. I have had Directv for years. When I heard the news, I knew it would be a disaster. I live in a rural area and need satellite tv and internet. Since AT&T took over, my monthly bill went from $140 to $220. No wonder people have left them. The customer service sucks and the bill no longer contains a program showing new releases and new series. Plesase save us Dish!

  18. I hope dish buys DirecTV. Just recently dropped dish due to a service issue not knowing DirecTV was at&t owned and real junk channels for what I can afford, they lied to me on the channels I’d get. I was conned.

  19. Antoine sam // August 5, 2019 at 7:28 pm // Reply

    They also told me that my channels was lock in. Ever since I had direct TV my bill goes up ever month. It went from 139.00 to 197. O0. That doesn’t make any sense to for them to do that. I am getting ready to let them go and find a cheaper company.

  20. What happens to my NFL games which I pay dearly for ?

  21. I’m gonna say no….only because AT&T no longer pushes their cable platform U-Verse. If you request it they will not turn you down but will push Directv if the customer doesn’t specify. Just an inside of what I’m familiar with.😉

  22. Janet Palma // August 5, 2019 at 7:45 pm // Reply

    I too despise ATT and their mishandling of a good satellite service. I am pissed at paying $200/month and not having CBS anymore. It’s all about GREED. Always has been with ATT. I’ve been considering switching to DISH except for no HBO. Some streaming is poor quality, so I’m not cutting the cord completely yet.

  23. Royd Pergrem // August 5, 2019 at 8:08 pm // Reply

    Don’t blame Direct TV. Blame AT&T. DUMP THEM!! They want people to cut the cord on Direct TV. DUMP AT&T. There ARE OTHER phone companies.

  24. Michele Augustine // August 5, 2019 at 8:45 pm // Reply

    Direct TV. Bring back our CBS!!!!

  25. Judy Childers // August 5, 2019 at 9:43 pm // Reply

    I have had DirecTV since the 80’s with absolutely no issues. We have been snowbirds from Mi to Fl since 2000. Have modems and equipment in both places and up until this year I would call with turn Mi off and Fl on..and again in May the opposite. This year was a nightmare with ATT’s rule. After hours for a week on the phone they said I HAD to have 2 accounts..if you were to look at my account there are pages of notes. Now that I am back in Mi I know the price promises will change.

    I hope something changes and ATT just goes away and old DirecTV takes over again.

  26. AT&T’s announcement to move away from the DIRECTV name and announcement to discontinue satellite launches should help. It might leave a monopoly, but AT&T didn’t help the situation.

    My only concern would be Dish’s ability to integrate DIRECTV and follow through with their wireless provider agreement (Sprint/T-Mobile merger). It seems like a lot for a company who has had spectrum but done nothing with it. I see the potential for a double lose-lose situation.

    The CBS blackout may very well be the last straw for me.

    Refs:
    https://www.cnet.com/news/what-is-at-t-tv-here-is-what-we-know-now/
    https://spacenews.com/directv-owner-att-says-its-done-buying-satellites/

  27. Tony Darwish // August 5, 2019 at 11:20 pm // Reply

    To set thinhs straight..At&T is talking about spinning DirecTV off on its own and not interfering with everyday business..
    Also its been talked about that dish network is wanting DirecTV to buy them not the other way around having said that it may not happen since there would be no competition for people that only have Satellite as a provider!

  28. I’ve been with Direct TV since 1996. And I like hell that they don’t merge or sell out to Dish. Also been a customer with AT&T for years.

  29. AT&T went SOUTH after the Phone Break-up in 1984,
    Then their Customer Service went Overseas,. Down Hill from there.

    DirecTV WAS the GOLD standard. Then AT&T bought them.
    Their Customer Service went Overseas Worst Mistake ever.
    You need to learn a foreign language to even try and communicate. Even that doesn’t work.

    DirecTV needs a NEW Owner, maybe DirecTV’s OLD owner will buy it back.
    Problem with Dish is they DON’T have as good a Picture as DirecTV
    Was told they Compress the signal from channels to squeeze them into less band space.
    I had Both, REALLY noticed the difference. DirecTV was WAY Superior.
    Installers told me they hear this All the time.

    Latest Problem with AT&T is they LOVE their name, AT&T
    Everything they own is – NAMED – AT&T.
    AT&T Landlines, AT&T CELL Phones, AT&T U-Verse,-TV, AT&T-U-verse Internet,
    AT&T DirecTV, AT&T DirecTV NOW, AT&T UNIVERSAL CREDIT CARD.
    When you get your bill they ALL show AT&T in the Return window and maybe inside you might find which Division it is from in Extremely small print.

    Takes time to figure which bill goes with which service.
    They also LOVE to BUNDLE. That way they really get you confused.
    DON’T EVER Bundle !!!!

    How much are you paying for WHAT. Then try (In a Foreign Language to UN-Bundle)

    I got the shaft and paid my land line bill thinking it was my DirecTV bill.
    That got cut off for NON payment. Took 2 weeks to get the TV turned back on,
    (MANY Transfers, to ALL centers on the planet)
    Then they CHARGED me a RE-Connection FEE of $25.00 plus a service FEE of $10.00

    AT&T needs to RE-Name their Bills and Services.

    AT&T LAND LINE, AT&T CELL PHONE, AT&T SATELLITE DirecTV,
    AT&T STREAMING Internet TV, AT&T FIBER INTERNET, AT&T CREDIT CARD.

    Print these Names on RETURN envelope Window and in LARGE Print on TOP of BILL

    AND MOVE ALL CALL CENTERS to the USA

  30. Jewl Hawkins // August 6, 2019 at 7:47 am // Reply

    Dish Att & keep Directv only in one condition, if direct lower thier prices on thier packages.

  31. Jason Harper // August 6, 2019 at 9:00 am // Reply

    Charlie has his hands full with this 5G IOT rollout and the newly agreed terms for becoming our nation’s 4th cell phone carrier. Plus with the feud with HBO still ongoing, I don’t think there’s any talk of merging.

  32. If this AT&T sale should actually happen, would I get CBS back? I hate Direct TV, but I am locked in because of Sunday Ticket. I would cord cut in a heart beat, but I would then be divorced. 😢

  33. I’d say doubtful. Dish will now be the 4th wireless carrier and is building out a 5G network which will take billions of dollars. Never say never though.

  34. Paul D Holtberg // August 6, 2019 at 10:32 am // Reply

    Wishing directv get it together before alot more poeple cut,I have been with direct since 2000 but getting more and more discusseded it’s about customers not big bucks

  35. Patricia Kelly // August 6, 2019 at 11:16 am // Reply

    All I need is internet service in my home. I live out in the country. ATT does not have service out here. What’s the cheapest plan. Zip code 74959

  36. I’ve been a DIRECTV subscriber for over 20 years and I absolutely hate what AT&T has done to DIRECTV. Local channels have been dropped during Hurricane season, prices have increased, and even the ‘premium’ channels like HBO and Showtime seem to be replaying older movies than before AT&T. I know streaming is the big thing today but I live in an area served by Centurylink with Internet Service only slightly better than dial up was. Centurylink has no plans to improve its DSL service anytime soon so streaming services are not an option. Yes, I have access to Mediacom cable service but it’s only slightly better than DIRECTV during inclement weather. DIRECTV used to be great. I only wish the people who approved the DIRECTV & AT&T merger had to depend on the ‘new’ DIRECTV following the merger!

  37. Direct TV needs to get chanel 3 and 57 back because I am paying for all the channels and now I can’t watch them .

  38. Janet Palma // August 6, 2019 at 12:44 pm // Reply

    YUP. That would be our local channels 4 and 5. That is half my viewing time. I am going to pay only half the bill. See what they say. $25 credit is not enough.

  39. Duane Sugarbaker // August 6, 2019 at 12:51 pm // Reply

    Att owns both of them. They’re just merge m

  40. James McCombs // August 6, 2019 at 12:56 pm // Reply

    I do not wish to see DirecTV and dish merge.

  41. Bradley E Kent // August 6, 2019 at 1:21 pm // Reply

    NO!! Dish and Comcast are the worst companies around.
    Dish has less Satellites and only One correspondent in the dish itself. This is why the pictures pixels constantly with no solution or discounts. Comcast’s direct billing with keep you with a forever balance and although they have upgraded on the street it is still a coaxial cable to and in your home. A complete joke!
    Direct TV customers have been put through the ringer already with AT&Frkn T
    without adding more cancer like Dish! When contacting Direct TV
    ask for the Loyalty Dept and receive Top Notch, 5 Star customer service and discounts for no CBS!
    BK CA

  42. Cathi Mackey // August 6, 2019 at 1:22 pm // Reply

    I also hate AT&T and since they bought DirecTV I was with DirecTV for 2 years after that and I just got rid of them for the dish. I would love to see dish take over DirecTV. DirecTV was such a good company before AT&t bought them.

  43. Latoya Denice Barnes // August 6, 2019 at 1:57 pm // Reply

    I’m a dish customer & I’ve had direct & the past & their service was horrible. Movies where ordered on my account,we would loose channels & most of the time there was nothing to watch!! I think dish has better quality. My opinion may change,but for now it works.

  44. Tom Hauser // August 6, 2019 at 3:43 pm // Reply

    Why haven’t you mentioned direct tv not broadcasting cbs or fox. It’s been over a month that I have missed out on some of my favorite shows such as cbs Sunday morning, 60 minutes, baseball games etc. Etc. Can I refuse to pay part of my bill?

    • Was an avid DISH customer for years until they dropped HBO and Cinemax. Those are basically the only channels I watched. Until they get them back I’ll keep downloading torrents for free.

  45. I HATE DISH!!! I PREFER DIRECTTV!!!

  46. John Bryant // August 6, 2019 at 4:05 pm // Reply

    Direct prices. Go . Get less. Channels price keeps inching up. Channel 246 is impractical jokers Or Carbonaro effect. Other shows are just being to rotated to differemt channels. If it rains. Sattlite g o es out

  47. We dislike direct tv they have a poor family chice great for family with children but for adults its a very poor choice, the others are way to expensive for seniors on limited incomes. Dish i hear is no better but we r where we have mtns around us and far from larger cities so we are stuck. USA CABLE was super great didnt charge so much and we had a great choice but they left our small town. Hope it will get better if purchased ot something better is done for customers.

  48. Nancy Simmons // August 7, 2019 at 12:59 am // Reply

    Well AT&T sold alright but not to Dish! The first thing this new company did was get rid of my local channel 6 (NBC). I had been fighting for a year to purchase channels 390 through 397 being constantly that I could not make the purchase because I had local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX. Now I have no NBC while AT&T and this new company fight it out. Well, I am finished with DirecTV. I am switching to Dish tomorrow.

  49. We had DirecTV for over 10 years and we hate attv taking over we loss local channel 4 we are moving to dish we pay for local channel they shouldn’t of been able to miss with local channel DirecTV need to go out of business it suck now everyone should change over to another cable company

  50. Gary Morgan // August 7, 2019 at 9:08 am // Reply

    I have been a DirecTV customer for 23 years, until this week. I suffered through many missteps with my billing and upgrades and equipment replacements. But this week was the final straw.
    A smart mouthed customer service agent and a supervisor that said “if you are unhappy, maybe you should cancel” was it for me. AT&T is a sorry excuse for a company.

  51. It is time for the FCC to step in and make it MANDATORY,
    ALL companies that operate in the USA can ONLY have Call Centers in the USA or Canada.
    Also screening (NOT for discrimination) employees must SPEAK GOOD English and have an Excellent UNDERSTANDING of the companies Products and services.
    NO more Transferring calls from one Place / Department to another.
    Have it operate like DirecTV was BEFORE AT&T stepped in and Destroyed it and Customer Service.
    Gary, you have it right: AT&T is a sorry excuse for a company.

  52. Rusty Shackleford // August 9, 2019 at 2:47 am // Reply

    Regardless of what happens, the customer will lose once again.

  53. Janet Palma // August 9, 2019 at 11:45 am // Reply

    Well local channel 5 is back, but not channel 4. I say that all of us that have suffered either file a class action lawsuit against ATT/DIRECTV or just not pay half the bill.

  54. The Desert Rat // September 4, 2019 at 10:53 am // Reply

    Yesterday. After 45 minutes Finally got an order in for a replacement for a bad mini receiver from an ineffective phone tree and three individuals that could not understand English. Only the last could figure out if my account number was for ATT Wireless, Internet, Directv or Uverse. Half hour later I received an email saying I agreed to a new 2 year contract and monthly service plan. Called them back, went thru 2 hours of phone tree, FOUR people that couldn’t understand English who finally said thats the way it is if you want a replacement receiver. Immediately cancelled service. Their service used to be the best, now it is awful and lost them this customer. I plan to go with Air TV and Sling Blue today.

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