Q. We have Dish and I want to get the new HBO Max which comes for free with HBO. But I can’t order HBO on Dish because it doesn’t have it. How come Dish doesn’t have HBO? — Sheila, Budd’s Creek, Maryland.
Sheila, Dish has been without HBO now for 20 months due to a fee fight with its owner, AT&T. Basically, Dish is refusing to pay AT&T what it wants to carry the premium channel.
And when the old carriage pact expired on November 1, 2018, AT&T 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, Sheila, I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t foresee it ending anytime soon. It’s been 20 months. Dish really doesn’t have to worry about many people dropping service now because HBO isn’t there. There’s little leverage for Dish to return to the negotiating table.
So I would not be surprised if Dish never makes a deal with AT&T.
That is, unless Dish buys DIRECTV.
What does DIRECTV have to do with Dish carrying HBO?
There have been rumors that Dish and DIRECTV might merge. AT&T, which also owns DIRECTV, may be interested in unloading it because it’s rapidly losing subscribers thanks to cord-cutting and other intangibles such as AT&T’s mismanagement of the nation’s top satellite TV service.
If so, Dish would be a likely merger candidate. The nation’s second largest satellite TV service is also losing customers, but it’s doing so at a much slower pace than DIRECTV. In addition, Dish could benefit from the deal because it would give it around 25 million pay TV subscribers. That would allow Dish to reduce expenses, particularly programming expenses.
As part of a DIRECTV deal, AT&T could demand that Dish carry HBO. It’s a small line item in a mega-merger, but AT&T would be wise to include it.
The other prospect for Dish to bring HBO back is if AT&T insists that it’s included in the next carriage agreement for the AT&T-owned Turner networks, such as TBS, TNT and The Cartoon Network. It’s not clear when the current deal expires, but you can bet that AT&T would fight to get HBO in the new pact.
Bottom line, Sheila, if you want HBO Max, you’ll have to order it directly at its web site and watch it on the HBO Max app.
Hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann