Dish Network Coy With War Plan

Dish Network will gather media in New York on Thursday for what it is billing as “The War of The Words.” To pump the event, the promotional material features a couple of boxing gloves facing off.

It’s not skimping on costs for “The Weigh In,” at least with the venue. The satellite operator is holding the event at the famed Hammerstein Ballroom.

Asked for some details, a company representative wrote: “Due to the nature of the announcement, we can't provide more information at this time …”

If nothing else, Dish is engaged in a masterful publicity job. Who wouldn’t be interested in its next battle -- tongue-in-cheek or not -- especially when it is so coy about it?

The company, with about 14 million subscribers, hasn’t been pulling many punches lately. Presumably, Dish hasn't invited AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan to the Hammerstein to engage in warring words with its Chairman Charlie Ergen. Which is too bad because that would be exceedingly entertaining – the feisty Ergen vs. the genial Sapan.



There’s been plenty of sparring between their two companies recently with Dish having blacked out AMC’s channels in a carriage dispute. AMC has been running ads noting its programming isn't on Dish. (AMC is also involved in a legal tussle with Dish involving a suite of Voom channels.)

Dish's Ergen recently went on a diatribe, where he ripped AMC for not doing business the “Godfather” way (you do me a favor and maybe I’ll do one for you later.)

Seems AMC might welcome not being in the same class as the Corleones. (Ergen apparently feels Mark Cuban is.)

In today’s complex media world, Dish did land a small blow on AMC this week with its display ads plugging Blockbuster on the AMC Web site. Blockbuster is now part of Dish. Ad networks and behavioral targeting can let unwanted online ads slip through – maybe just one time -- and AMC will surely put a block on Blockbuster ads soon.

At least for now, isn’t likely to be running any messaging for the Dish Auto Hop, another arena where Dish has started swinging. Auto-hopping allows removal of all ads in recorded prime-time network shows. Not surprisingly, networks aren’t too pleased and they're tangling with Dish in court.

Has Dish gotten them to agree to settle the matter out of court Thursday at “The War of Words” with a three-judge, boxing-style panel?  

Dish, however, doesn’t look like it has any interest in backing away from a fight. Check out this question-and-answer exchange with Dish vice president Vivek Khemka:

USA Today: What do you say to the networks who think you're evil?

Khemka: Consumers have been forwarding through commercials since the beginning of the DVR. This just simplifies the process. The feedback from consumers is that they love it.

Dish has promoted its new DVR service, the Hopper, in a campaign with Boston accents. But, it’s been relatively quiet about touting the ad-zapping, though a “Watch Shows. Not Commercials” tag is floating around the Web.

Dish has finished its “War of The Words” with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which threatened to black out a slew of local stations on the Dish service. As the stand-off proceeded last month, Dish senior vice president Dave Shull said in a statement that Sinclair’s position “goes beyond pure corporate greed -- it's profoundly insensitive to the needs of the public.”

Sinclair said it was asking for lower prices than Dish was paying for lesser-watched channels and slid in a jab about Dish “currently being sued” by the major networks. The two parties reached a deal at the 11th hour.

So, what really is Dish up to with this pugilistic promotional tack in advance of what appears to be a press conference? Company executives probably aren’t flying in from Colorado to launch barbs.

In USA Today, Khemka said Dish will be debuting a second-screen app soon. The company has been active in facilitating anytime, anywhere viewing on tablets and smartphones. It has a robot-looking portable antenna that can be used to access TV at tailgate parties and elsewhere. Dish also is interested in moving into the wireless network business.

But none of that would seem to engender an initiative with a war-like undercurrent – even if the battlefield is limited to words. So, it’s difficult to put into words the interest it has sparked.

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