Q. You wrote yesterday about Dish not having the Fox sports channels and if there’s anything new. But what about HBO? We haven’t had HBO on Dish for over a year. Will it ever come back? — Cindy, Boise, Idaho.
Cindy, you’re right. It’s now been more than 12 months since Dish and HBO couldn’t reach a new carriage agreement. And when the old pact expired on November 1, 2018, HBO pulled both HBO and Cinemax from Dish, and the Dish-owned live streaming service, Sling TV.
When the blackout began, I predicted it might take months to resolve. And, Cindy, I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t foresee it ending anytime soon. In fact, I predict that HBO will never return to Dish.
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Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen was asked about HBO earlier this month in a conference call with financial analysts. The satellite executive blasted AT&T, HBO’s owner, for allegedly demanding carriage fees far higher than the industry norm. Ergen said the telco did so because if Dish didn’t have HBO, it would lose subscribers, who in turn would go to DIRECTV, which is also owned by AT&T.
(AT&T has not commented on the dispute so we don’t know if Ergen’s charge is accurate.)
“We like to strike agreements that are good for both companies…and you have to make leave kicking and screaming,” Ergen told the analysts. “But HBO did that and refused to negotiate a deal other than one where we would lose a significant amount of money on. They had a strategic reason because they wanted to grow subs at DIRECTV.”
Ergen’s comments would suggest the tension between AT&T and Dish is a major obstacle to resolving the disagreement. But there’s another reason why HBO will likely never return to the satellite service.
If any subscribers planned to drop Dish or Sling due to the loss of HBO and Cinemax, they would have done it by now.
It’s been 12 months. Dish really doesn’t have to worry about subscriber defections now.
And while some Dish and Sling subscribers initially dropped their service due to the loss of HBO, most HBO fans probably signed up for the channel’s standalone version. (HBO Now), which costs the same as the Dish/Sling version. Rather than having to get a new TV provider, Dish and Sling customers can simply watch HBO online. (Assuming they can get a decent Internet service at their home; that’s not the case with some rural subscribers.)
Consequently, there’s very little pressure on Dish now to make a deal. And I don’t see that changing. Ever.
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