Dish’s Charlie Ergen: In the future, most TV viewing won’t happen on TV

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Dish still wants to launch its internet TV service by the end of this year, chairman Charlie Ergen confirmed during the company’s Q2 earnings call Wednesday. Ergen also said that he is looking at the online service as a key asset for a possible wireless future. Wireless and video “will go together pretty nicely,” Ergen said.

Dish made some headlines this week when it announced a licensing deal with A+E Networks which includes the right to deliver A+E content as part its upcoming internet TV service. Earlier this year, the company struck a similar agreement with Disney.

Ergen said that the new service could be a win-win proposition for both networks and Dish, but also cautioned that the real impact of an internet TV service won’t be known for some time. “We could be disruptive to the current ecosystem,” he said, adding that the company is trying to move carefully into this space so that a new service won’t necessarily compete with its own satellite TV service. Dish lost 44,000 subscribers in Q2, compared to 78,000 a year ago.

However, in the long run, internet TV is all about wireless, Ergen said. People already watch a lot of video on mobile devices, he argued, and in the future, this type of use will increase even more, to the point where traditional TV may become the landline phone of the video business. “TV is gonna follow the phone business,” he said, adding: “The majority of viewing is gonna be on a screen other than the way you are watching it today.”

Dish has acquired some spectrum in the past to launch mobile services, but with the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile falling apart, it’s also possible that the company could sell some of that spectrum again and potentially partner, or even merge, with a mobile carrier. Dish’s executive team got tons of questions about spectrum and T-Mobile during Wednesday’s call, but both Ergen and CEO Joe Clayton played their cards close to their chest. Ergen did say that Dish may be interested in T-Mobile, but also joked that he’d have to read this week’s analyst reports first to know what to do next.

Regardless of Dish’s potential wireless future, Ergen certainly isn’t alone with his thoughts on video and mobile. AT&T is looking to acquire Dish’s competitor DirecTV, and also recently launched an online video joint venture dubbed Otter Media in cooperation with the Chernin Group. And Verizon acquired Intel’s OnCue internet TV venture earlier this year, but it looks like it has since scaled back its plans of actually launching a TV-like service in the immediate future.

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