Merger Between Dish and DirecTV Could Be 'Inevitable'
The realities of the cord-cutting trend may be driving the potential merger.
In an earnings call on Thursday, Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen reiterated that a merger between his company and DirecTV is “inevitable.”
Dish published its earnings for the fourth quarter on Thursday, announcing net income of $552 million and revenue of $4.45 billion. The company also announced that it had lost 273,000 pay-TV subscribers in the fourth quarter, leaving them with 8.22 million on Dish TV and 2.49 million on Sling TV.
“We need to do a better job in our subscriber targets … and we've removed some headwinds in order to execute this year,” CEO Erik Carlson said on the company’s earnings call, per a transcript published by Seeking Alpha. “With regard to the fourth quarter, DISH lost roughly 200,000 subscribers. And this was driven by several factors, the most significant being our local programming dispute with Tegna for the majority of the football season.” However, the Tegna dispute was recently settled.
Referencing the 70,000-subscriber loss for Sling TV in the fourth quarter, Calrson said that Dish “didn't execute operationally in the fourth quarter to the level that we expect of ourselves.”
A report in January from the New York Post stated that Dish Network and DirecTV were once again in talks to combine the two satellite broadcasters, although not much has been said about the topic since that report. It was finally addressed on the call Thursday.
“I think it's inevitable that DISH and DIRECTV go together,” said Ergen. “Otherwise, both companies will just melt away, and there'll be no service for customers. The regulatory reasons to not allow it, don't exist anymore. So … I think it's inevitable. I don't know on the timing of it, I guess, is what I'd say.”
“Churn began to rise and subscriber losses began to reaccelerate,” Moffett wrote in a note to investors later that day, as reported by Deadline. “That naturally raised questions about how effectively, and for how long, the satellite business would be able to fund Dish’s wireless ambitions.” Moffett had written in a note last August that the two companies’ physical satellites are slowly dying.
Also on the call, Dish addressed the status of its 5G network, which has been slow going so far. Dish acquired Boost Mobile as part of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, with an eye towards rolling out the nation’s fourth major wireless network. “When it works, it works pretty well,” Ergen said on the call of its rollout in Las Vegas, per The Verge.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.