Dish Chairman: Streaming "Going to Be a Bit of a Bloodbath for a While"

Charlie Ergen - H 2015
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Charlie Ergen - H 2015

Charlie Ergen says that with Dish entering the wireless market, “I am much more enthusiastic on our video business.”

Charlie Ergen, chairman and co-founder of Dish Network, on Tuesday told a Wall Street conference that he believes the streaming video landscape “is going to be a bit of a bloodbath for a while,” as media companies and skinny bundles fight for market share against entrenched incumbents.

"The game now [for entertainment companies] is to load up your channels and get as much shelf space as you can, while you undercut them [distributors] with your direct-to-consumer offering," said Ergen in a jab at Disney's Disney+ and NBCUniversal's Peacock, among others.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York, Ergen spent most of his interview discussing Dish's plans to enter the wireless market, an effort made possible by T-Mobile’s pending merger with Sprint. T-Mobile signed a consent decree with the Justice Department that includes giving Dish access to its network, as well as selling it the Boost wireless brand.

Ergen added, however, that with Dish entering the wireless market, "I am much more enthusiastic on our video business."

"Sling TV is a long-term play with technology that will pay dividends for us, particularly as we go into wireless," said Ergen. He said that because Dish was early to the skinny streaming bundle market with Sling, it had worked out some of the kinks that newer entrants are now dealing with. Going forward, the company is focusing its video efforts on rural customers, and isn’t afraid to lose channels if the economics don’t make sense.

"We are not afraid to take something down if we can’t make money from it," said Ergen, citing the company’s loss of HBO.

"HBO has too much sex and violence [for a rural audience], so it is not a big deal for us; for Comcast, it might be a big deal," he said. "Now, if we lost Netflix, that would be a problem."