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AT&T CEO John Stankey chose not to address options for DirecTV to merge with Dish Networks amid continuing speculation about a tie-up for the declining satellite TV operators.
“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 expect to do that today,” Stankey said on an analyst call after releasing his company’s first quarter earnings. The AT&T boss was asked to comment on Dish Network having become a “distressed security” in equity and bond markets, and whether that altered AT&T’s strategy on a possible tie-up between Dish and DirecTV.
Stankey batted the question instead to Dish Networks chairman Charlie Ergen, who has long said a potential merger was “inevitable.”
“On your commentary on Dish, I don’t want to stipulate necessarily to your characterization. I’m sure Charlie doesn’t stipulate to them,” Stankey added, before suggesting the analyst approach Ergen directly on merger scenarios. “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.”
A much-discussed merger of the two satellite TV operators is expected to help them better compete against cable companies and others in the streaming space.
As part of its first quarter earnings, AT&T reported $900 million in adjusted equity in net income from DirecTV, the satellite TV giant earlier spun out as a standalone video-centric entity in a deal backed by private equity firm TPG.
That lower contribution this past quarter compares to distributions from DirecTV at $1.3 billion for the first quarter of 2022. AT&T accounts for its investment in DirecTV, in which it owns 70 percent of the company, as equity, while TPG holds a 30 percent stake.
After spinning off WarnerMedia to allow the creation of Warner Bros. Discovery, Stankey did not take any questions or discuss on the analyst call the Hollywood studio’s refreshed streaming service Max as it combines programming from both the original HBO Max streaming service and Discovery+.
The AT&T head in his commentary to analysts instead focused on connectivity, and specifically his company’s 5G wireless phone and broadband offerings, after the telecom giant spun off its media assets.
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