Dish yesterday released its 2021 third quarter report which showed its satellite TV service lost a net of 13,000 customers with Dish’s satellite service losing 130,000 while its live streaming service, Sling TV, added a net of 117,000. At the end of the quarter, Dish had roughly 10.98 million subscribers with 8.42 million for Dish and 2.56 million for Sling.

Following the report’s release, Dish executives took questions from industry analysts and journalists on a variety of topics, including when Dish would settle its carriage dispute with the Tegna-owned 64 network affiliates, what’s the status of Dish’s negotiations for a new agreement with Sinclair, and whether Dish will ultimately merge with DIRECTV.

As usual, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen was the dominant speaker during the event and here are the highlights of his remarks:

Ergen suggested that Dish is more inclined to reach a near-term settlement with Sinclair than Tegna.
The Dish chief acknowledged that Dish is “losing some customers” due to not carrying the 64 Tegna stations since October 6. But he said the losses are not as significant as the company thought they might be. The loss of Sinclair’s 100 plus local stations, which have remained on Dish while the companies operate on short-term contract extensions, would likely mean more subscriber defections than Tegna.

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“We know we’ll lose Tegna customers. They’re not up and we are losing some customers, but not as dramatic as it might have been in the past,” Ergen stated. “Sinclair is bigger than Tegna, and we’ve had a long-term relationship there. And…there’s more conversation around that. They’re bigger and would probably have a little bit more clout and scale in the marketplace.”

Dish and Sinclair are also discussing the return of Sinclair’s Bally Sports channels to the satcaster’s lineup, but he did not comment directly on that.

Ergen added that he doesn’t believe the negotiations between Dish and Tegna are “serious” now. Dish has filed a complaint with the FCC that charges Tegna with negotiating in ‘bad faith.’
“I don’t think there’s serious negotiation going on, really. I mean, I think we remain far apart,” Ergen said.

Update: Tegna files a counter-claim against Dish.

Ergen said his company will be less likely to agree to Tegna’s demands if the dispute extends beyond football season.
“We’ve got eight weeks of football left and then we’ll have lost the customers who can’t find football somewhere else and it remains such a huge (carriage fee) that we know where that ends up.” Ergen said. “The economic value to us is going down, not up right now.”

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Ergen reiterated that he believes DIRECTV and Dish will eventually merge, a prediction he has made frequently in the past. He cautioned that it may not occur soon due to uncertainty over whether federal regulators would approve it. But Ergen said that DIRECTV’s new management team, which now includes the private equity firm, TPG, likely agrees the merger makes sense.

“I think you talked about the industrial logic of putting the two video companies together. Again, I’ve said it many times, inevitable,” Ergen said. “I think that there’s been a change of control (over DIRECTV) in terms of from AT&T to TPG…I assume that they see the logic there as well. But that’s probably a better question for them. I think the big thing would be regulatory. And I think it’s prudent for anybody to wait until…the government has their antitrust team in place, which could happen maybe in the next month or two and see kind of how they’re looking at mergers and seeing kind of what they’re focused on and what they’re not focused on.”

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