News & Analysis
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen yesterday reiterated his belief that a merger between his company and DIRECTV is ‘inevitable.’ But a new comment from Ergen during a conference call with financial analysts certainly raised some eyebrows.

“Yeah, I mean, I still think DISH and DIRECTV will be inevitable. Could that be a month from now or 10 years from now? That I don’t know,” Ergen said.

There has been speculation for months that Dish and the AT&T-owned DIRECTV could merge. (Ergen himself first said last February that he thought it was ‘inevitable.)

AT&T has dismissed the rumors, but DIRECTV has lost between five and six million subscribers since AT&T purchased it for $49 billion in 2015, and the defections are increasing each financial quarter. The telco has also acknowledged it believes the satellite TV industry does not have a strong future while video streaming does.

The continued DIRECTV subscriber losses, and AT&T’s heavy investment in streaming offerings such as HBO Max and AT&T TV, have some analysts agreeing with Ergen that a merger is indeed evitable.

But could a Dish-DIRECTV deal really get done in the next month?

Ergen’s ‘next month’ comment could have been a throw-away remark, not really meant to suggest a deal could be that close. There hasn’t even been a single credible news report that the companies are talking.

But Ergen rarely says something so pointed in public without a reason. By saying a merger could happen in the next month, or the next 10 years, could be his way of publicly goading AT&T to come to the table. (Or if they are already at the table, sign the dotted line.)

It’s also interesting that Ergen brought up the prospect of a Dish-DIRECTV merger in the analyst call; it wasn’t a response to a question. (Ergen and other Dish executives held the analyst call yesterday following Dish’s release of its second quarter report.)

“Obviously, we haven’t gotten the question, but obviously I’ve said in the past, I thought I would be inevitable that DISH and DIRECTV probably at some point would to be allowed to merge,” Ergen said during the discussion.

It would seem that Ergen wanted to discuss the merger in a public forum, again perhaps to send a signal to AT&T to get serious.

The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation, and report back here if we get more information. Until then, you can read our article, ‘Why Would Dish Merge With DIRECTV?’

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— Phillip Swann