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Dish's Joe Clayton on Upcoming Disney Negotiations: 'Normally, Greed Prevails'

Dish Networks CEO Joe Clayton Speaking - H 2013
David Becker/Getty Images
Dish Networks CEO Joe Clayton

Despite legal animosity between Dish and Disney's ABC/ESPN, the satellite TV giant says it is hopeful about new carriage agreements. "Our checks are pretty big," says chairman Charlie Ergen.

Dish Network CEO Joe Clayton says that he expects that the satellite TV giant will be able to reach a new carriage deal for ABC.

On an earnings call following the announcement of fourth quarter financials, he was asked whether Disney's concern over the ad-skipping DVR Hopper could interfere with a licensing agreement.

"We are a big customer of theirs," Clayton answered. "I would not expect them to take (ABC) down. Anything can happen, but normally, greed prevails."

Dish is currently involved in two lawsuits with Disney-owned subsidiaries.

ABC recently asked a New York judge to issue an injunction over the Hopper, arguing that the technology induces copyright infringement and violates the terms of its licensing deal.

Dish is also in the midst of a trial this month with ESPN in a $150 million lawsuit. The satellite company alleges that ESPN has breached the "most favored nation" provisions of a 2005 licensing agreement by giving other distributors lower subscriber rates, better packaging and allowing its network to be streamed online.

The legal fighting could complicate carriage deals that are set to expire sometime in September, but Dish chairman Charlie Ergen says there's one big reason why the parties should be able to figure out how to work through differences.

"Our checks are pretty big," said Ergen. "We have discussions every year with programmers. Some we are in litigation with. We have always been able to work through those issues. Content going down is a lose-lose."

Ergen continued by saying that it would be particularly painful for Disney. He pointed out that sports programming is Dish's most expensive cost. "The model could change," he said. "It may not be a bad problem for us long-term. Probably would be a shorter term problem. But it would be a long-term problem for Disney."

The colorful entertainment executive also beseeched others in the TV industry to work with him on the advertising front.

"I think we are misunderstood on the Hopper," said Ergen. "We see the advertising format changing. We can't put our head in the sand. All DVRs skip commercials. We can't ignore that fact. What we are really saying to broadcasters, 'There is a way for you not to put your head in the sand, a way to make more money from advertising through targeting. Work with us, not against us, and we'll show you how to do that. We're not foes, we're friends.'"

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner