Dish and DirecTV Merger ‘Inevitable,’ Ergen Says

Combining the two fading satellite TV operations isn’t a matter of if but only when, the Dish chairman explains

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen has upped his rhetoric surrounding the long-speculated merger of his company’s satellite TV operation with competitor DirecTV to Thanos-like levels.

Charlie Ergen

He told investment analysts and press during Dish’s Q2 earnings call Friday that the merger is “inevitable.”

In fact, Ergen said it isn’t even a matter of if, it’s only an issue of when.

“Is it one month from now or two years from now? I don’t know,” he said.

Dish’s virtual pay TV service, Sling TV, has also stopped growing, losing another 56,000 customers in Q2.

Dish has expressly moved on to the wireless business — it announced announced its latest wireless move, the acquisition of Ting Mobile, earlier this week.

Dish and DirecTV famously tried to merge two decades ago, only to be rebuffed by the Justice Department due to antitrust concerns. But that was a very different pre-streaming world.

DirecTV, however, has lost significant stature, as well—DirecTV had just over 15.1 million remaining subscribers before AT&T reported the loss of another 900,000 subscribers across its premium pay TV services in the second quarter. Most of those losses probably belonged to DirecTV.

Both Dish Network and AT&T see their satellite TV businesses as largely being marginalized to service rural markets that don’t have access to good broadband.

“There’s a solid group of people in rural America and small businesses… We don’t see that going away,” Ergen said.

But even in rural America, where the FCC is now aggressively subsidizing fixed wireless, Dish and DirecTV might not have much of a monopoly, either.

“Without the defensible rural segment to fall back to, there would be no floor, and no future, for satellite TV,” media-tech analyst Craig Moffett wrote to investors Friday.