In 2002, the two large satellite TV programming companies attempted a merger, but the FCC and the Justice Department’s antitrust division put the kibosh on it. The then-still-growing satellite TV business -- a big competitor to the likes of cable TV operators -- poised a monopolistic threat.
But today? Not so much. Now years later, both DirecTV and Dish Network are caught in the cross-hairs of weakening or negative subscriber growth -- as well as growing consumer awareness that they lack a portfolio of true broadband and phone products, something which cable TV operators now rely on for future growth. Also, cable TV operators have the growing benefit of real video-on-demand programming, something TV networks -- partners of all TV distribution providers -- increasingly look to as a savior to fractionalized viewership.
Of course the biggest reason Dish Network and DirecTV can perhaps expect a merger to go through is the existence of the very high-profile merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Surely if the two biggest cable operators in the U.S. can join up, then the two biggest satellite TV operators can do likewise, especially if their media product line has less to offer than traditional cable TV companies.
The combination would give DirecTV-Dish some 34 million subscriber, while Comcast-Time Warner would have around 33 million -- after Comcast divests some 3 million subscribers as part of its concession to the merger.
Also helping out: satellite TV providers, cable TV operators, and new telco TV providers are increasingly put into the same pool as the TV provider/distribution industry. Federal regulators see it this way and, importantly, so do consumers.