By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, what is the latest on a merger between Dish and DIRECTV? Are they still talking? Will this ever happen? — Dave, Enid, Oklahoma.

Dave, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, who has long said a merger with satcaster rival DIRECTV is inevitable, last November suggested a deal could happen sooner than later.

“You’re hesitant to be a political football for somebody to complain about big companies or whatever in an election cycle. But that election cycle is over next week. And then you have a window, where I think all companies are looking at M&A,” Ergen told financial analysts.

Ergen added: ““If the timing (of a DIRECTV-Dish merger) was right, it would be in the near term, not the longer term.”

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Well, it’s more than five months after the election with no merger in sight. Both Ergen and AT&T, which owns 70 percent of DIRECTV with private equity firm, TPG, owning 30 percent, have said little or nothing about the possibility.

Until today.

The Hollywood Reporter writes that John Stankey, AT&T’s CEO, was asked about a DIRECTV-Dish merger during the company’s first quarter analyst call. Stankey deflected the question as best he could.

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“I’ve never really commented on my point of view of what the calculus is and the combination of DIRECTV and Dish, and I don’t expect to do that today,” Stankey said, according to the publication.

The AT&T exec added:  “I think Charlie’s been the one that’s largely had commentary on that, he’s certainly entitled to do that. So he might be a better person to ask given the circumstances. He’s probably far more intimate on his business than I am.”

You could interpret Stankey’s comments in multiple ways. There are merger negotiations, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. There aren’t any negotiations, but there could be at some point. There won’t be a merger, but Stankey prefers not to comment on internal company discussions.

But one thing is clear: As long as Dish and DIRECTV continue to lose subscribers — and DIRECTV has lost more than 12 million customers since AT&T bought it in 2015 — there will be merger talk. As Ergen says, it just seems too inevitable to dismiss.

Dave, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann