By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, did Charlie Ergen talk about a DIRECTV merger at his first quarter report talk? Didn’t AT&T basically say talk to Charlie when they were asked about it? — Carl, New Haven, Connecticut.

Carl, John Stankey, AT&T’s CEO, was asked last month about a DIRECTV-Dish merger during the company’s first quarter analyst call. Stankey, whose company owns 70 percent of DIRECTV, deflected the question as best he could.

“I think Charlie’s (Charlie Ergen) 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,” Stankey said.

Well, Dish on Monday conducted its first quarter analyst call. Did Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen discuss the possibility of merging with his satellite rival?

Answer: No.

The analysts did not ask and Ergen did not bring it up. In past analyst calls, Ergen has not always needed prompting to discuss the ‘inevitability’ of a DIRECTV merger. But the outspoken Dish chief did not comment on the possibility on Monday.

I wouldn’t put anything into that, however. It doesn’t mean merger talks are ongoing or not. The topic just didn’t come up as a subject. The analysts focused on Dish’s wireless business and the company’s recent cyberattack issues.

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However, the subject of satellite TV’s future did come up. Although some analysts have suggested the satellite TV industry has an expiration date, perhaps as soon as 3-5 years, Ergen dismissed such notions. The veteran satellite exec said the business is not going away anytime soon. In fact, Dish has commissioned the building and launch of a new satellite in 2026.

“One thing I’d add that we don’t think that the DBS (Direct Broadcast Satellite) business is going away,” Ergen said. “It’s still the preferred choice for a lot of Americans in terms of an efficient way to watch TV. And obviously, there’s been — obviously, we’re able to add apps and things to the set-top-box for a seamless experience. So we don’t think business is going away. We just want to make sure that we have the right facilities in place for our customers. And to some extent, some of these satellites — you have to have a satellite for insurance purposes, too.”

The closest Ergen came to addressing a DIRECTV merger was when an analyst asked him about the company’s finances and whether it had enough money to invest in the future. He mentioned that Dish would likely need approval from federal regulators on unnamed issues at some point. Ergen has previously said a DIRECTV merger could face a regulatory challenge in Washington, D.C.

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“And obviously, from a regulatory point of view, there’s obviously a lot of things, from a regulatory point of view, that we have or continue to have in front of the regulators. And how do they rule on those things,” Ergen said.

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

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— Phillip Swann