Dish's Ergen: Use rifle, not shotgun, to acquire subscribers

It used to be that gaining subscribers for a satellite service was like shooting fish in a barrel. Competition and the Internet have changed that, and companies must modify their acquisition approach to meet the times, said Charlie Ergen, chairman-president-CEO of Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) during a fourth quarter earnings conference call.

"I think we have to get better at a rifle approach (rather than shotgun) because there are many, many subs (and) we have to change and go do the hard work to go get them," he said. "I'm disappointed that we're not getting customers. Are there a million gross adds a quarter out there for us that are economic? Yes there are. We're not getting a million so we're not operating as efficiently as we should."

Ergen said he was disappointed that Dish lost 156,000 subscribers in the quarter but that deep discounts are not a long-range solution.

"I don't like to give away our core business," he said. "If you're going to give somebody two years of programming discounts in a two-year agreement, at the end of the two years they're either going to leave because they have three or four other choices to go to ... or they're going to ask for more discounts."

Besides trying to acquire new subs, Dish also wants to drive broadband connectivity with "new products that enhance linear television," said Tom Cullen, executive vice president of corporate development, including tests with bundled telco/satellite service using Liberty Bell Telephone, a small CLEC the service provider acquired.

"Standalone CLECs have always been challenged from the acquisition standpoint on the residential side, but if you can dovetail that offering with our existing media spend and marketing efforts for the video product, we think there's an opportunity there," he said.

For more:
- listen to Dish's earnings call

Related articles:
Dish Network makes money, loses subscribers
Dish Network ups telecom service game, acquires Liberty-Bell Telecom
AT&T-Dish Network deal seen as a go, despite EchoStar's plan to buy Hughes
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