Charlie Ergen, chairman of Dish Network, doesn’t think Turner Broadcasting networks are all that special. In a recent earnings phone call, he said programming on TNT and TBS, for
example, isn’t as good, in viewer performance or otherwise, as AMC.
A little while back, Dish took off some Turner networks, including CNN and Cartoon Network -- but not TNT and TBS. Still, Ergen says those networks will soon find the exit door.
Bottom line: Dish may not take Turner back -- ever.
We have heard these draconian remarks before from executives of pay TV providers. But now they can tell investors there are more threats from networks to pay TV providers.: higher affiliate fees, lower viewership, and yes, some networks starting up their own stand-alone, over-the-top Internet-based TV service.
"When we take something down, we're prepared to take it down forever," Ergen said. "We would prefer to get a deal done. We have a
time frame we look at, but if we don't have a deal, we might make a long-term decision to go another direction."
Okay. Everyone take a deep breath.
Ergen then took a swipe at perhaps bigger fish: CBS. He says CBS in announcing its own OTT service, which means its programming is less valuable to pay TV providers. This could mean a blackout for CBS-owned and -operated stations.
If these are the early days of a la carte, stand-alone world of TV, you can be sure pay TV companies have sussed out the ramifications. Now Ergen’s job is to quell investors. For Dish’s own part, it is attempting to start up its own OTT internet TV service by the end of the year.
But, in fact, Dish had hoped for better business connections -- a merger with perhaps the bigger satellite TV provider DirecTV, or a deal with a big phone/broadband company to give Dish what traditional cable TV operators have: another connection to consumers.
Speaking one’s mind makes for great headlines -- that’s for sure. Maybe all that is a distraction for crumbling third quarter net income results -- down over 50% -- at Dish. After its earnings release, Dish’s mid-day Tuesday stock price sank sharply 6%.