Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen yesterday reiterated that he thinks a Dish-DIRECTV merger is “inevitable” and perhaps more likely now than ever.
“In terms of DIRECTV and Dish, I mean, obviously, I’ve said it the last year, I think that those two companies go together, that’s inevitable,” Ergen told analysts in a conference call following release of the company’s second quarter report.
The Dish chief suggested that federal regulators may have had issue with a satellite TV merger in the past because it would reduce video choices in rural areas where Internet access (and streaming) is limited. However, Congress is poised to approve a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would include $65 billion to expand Broadband in those markets.
“From a regulatory point of view, obviously, there’s less and less reality to objections to it because, obviously, the hundreds of billions of dollars of broadband deployment and continued competition from the programmers themselves in the marketplace,” Ergen said.
The Dish executive also noted that DIRECTV is now a separate company with a different management team. AT&T last week closed the sale of 30 percent in DIRECTV to private equity firm, TPG, and the new DIRECTV is now controlled by a mix of TPG and former AT&T executives.
Ergen said it’s unclear how the new DIRECTV structure would impact possible merger talks.
“There’s another party (TPG) involved…so, whether that’s positive or negative, I don’t know…We’ll just have to wait and see whether there’s desire on everybody’s part to do that. But, I think it’s a timing issue more than anything else,” Ergen said.
Some industry observers once doubted that a Dish-DIRECTV merger was possible due to friction between Ergen and AT&T executives as well as the Broadband regulatory concerns.
But AT&T and Dish announced last month that they had signed a multi-billion dollar pact to bring AT&T’s wireless service to Dish’s wireless customers. The agreement means that AT&T will replace T-Mobile as Dish’s primary wireless partner.
While the deal has nothing to do with DIRECTV, or any other AT&T-owned business, such as Warner Media, it has some analysts buzzing that it could lead to a satellite TV merger between the companies.
Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst at New Street Research, wrote in a note to his clients that one suspected reason why DIRECTV and Dish haven’t merged is that “AT&T hates Dish.” CNBC reports that Dish abruptly halted negotiations to sell its satellite TV service to the telco in 2007 and that AT&T’s executive team has held a grudge ever since.
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— Phillip Swann