Ergen on OTT: The world is changing and some people are going to change with it

By Jim O'Neill on Nov 05 2014 at 8:00 AM

Dish Network Founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen isn’t one to pull punches, and his comments to analysts and media at Dish’s Q3 earning call were, as usual, frank.

Ergen said Dish’s pay-TV business “continues to… surprise us that it has held up as well it has,” and said the operator has “a pretty clear path to actually grow the business.” Namely, over-the-top TV services and broadband.

Ergen said OTT will enable the company “to go after customers who aren't paying for TV today,” a number he says is growing by “four or five million a year and “probably will continue to grow and probably accelerate.”

Specifically, he said, Millennials who don’t use pay TV today.

“We're not going after the guy who spent $100 a month and got a house and 4 TVs and 3 kids, and he's 55 years old,” he said.

Dish is on track to launch its skinny OTT offering this year, he said, and the plans are still to come in near a $30 price point with several major programmers signed up an “a lot of interest with some others.”

Dish has run into some technical issues, aggregating partners’ signals and being able to do dynamic ad insertion, but still believes it can deliver this year.

The OTT product, he said, won’t “change the world in the first few months,” but Ergen sees it as something with “long-term path trajectory” for Dish.

“It's not easy to do,” he acknowledged. “There's a lot of technology. There's intellectual property. There's the devices. There's operating system and ease-of-use for consumers. There's billing, there's encryption, there's ad insertion, so there's a lot of pieces to it.”

On content, Ergen was equally direct, saying he was “disappointed” Dish couldn’t reach a new deal with Turner, but he took a hard line on the networks that so far have been dropped:

“When we take something down, we're prepared as a company to leave it down forever,” he said, adding that “things like CNN are not quite the product that they used to be.

“There's plenty of other places for people to get news,” he said. “It's not had a major impact on our business yet. I do expect we would ultimately lose some subscribers without Turner programming.”
Ergen said Dish was prepared to walk away from the dropped stations if a deal wasn’t completed this month, finding other content to fill gaps, creating unique content offering from other operators.

“The industry is changing… it's not going to be a marketplace where everybody has exactly the same thing.”

Instead, he said, some operators might focus on family and kids programing, others on sports and others on general entertainment.

“The world is changing, and some people are going to change with it,” he said. “We're going to work with those people who want to do new things and want to do -- to try new things.”

Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia

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