Dish’s Ergen: we prefer working with broadcasters over Aereo

Charlie Ergen

Charlie Ergen, the mercurial chairman of satellite TV provider Dish Network, said Thursday that he would prefer to work with incumbent televisions players to continue a dual-stream revenue model rather than striking up a new partnership with upstart mobile-TV company Aereo.

The comments came during a Thursday call on Ergen and other Dish executives took questions about the company’s latest earnings results, which fell short of analysts’ expectations.

While most of the call was dedicated to Dish’s high stakes bid for Sprint, which would give it the chance to offer mobile-broadband-TV packages, analysts also asked Ergen about his company’s ongoing spat with broadcasters. In recent months, Dish has incensed the networks by selling “the Hopper,” a popular product to skip commercials, and touched off rumors that it might buy Aereo, which allows viewers to watch TV on their phones for $8 a month.

On today’s call, however, Ergen sounded more conciliatory.

“We admire what [Aereo is] doing. We indirectly get a benefit as it puts downward pressure on retransmission consent fees.. But all things being equal, we’d prefer to work with the broadcasters,” he said. The broadcasters are equipped to do something themselves. We’re more likely to work with existing partners.”

The rhetoric is part of a complicated dance between pay TV providers, including Dish, and content owners over the spiraling cost of programming; in this struggle, services like the Hopper and Aereo have become a source of leverage for Dish.

On the call, Ergen repeated his call for smaller cable “bundles” and more a la carte offerings.

“At the end of the day, if the bundle price gets too high, [consumers] will find other ways to do it — they’ll use small antennas, they’ll steal programming.”

Ergen added that he believes the traditional dual stream model for TV, consisting of subscription and advertising revenue, will continue thanks to new mobile opportunities. In particular, he said that mobile viewing opened the prospect of valuable local-based ad targeting that will result in tailored ads being delivered to the living room, tablets and smartphones.

He added that some “forward looking broadcasters” were already on board in exploring new bundle opportunities with Dish.

“I’ve never met a programmer or broadcaster that was against making more money.”

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