Dish's Ergen on Viacom deal: 'We're prepared to move on'

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen said he sees a path to continued carriage in his company's current negotiations with Viacom, but that Dish is "prepared to move on as others have without the content."

"There actually is a path to continue carriage but it hasn't been reached yet. The devil is in the details," Ergen said during an earnings conference call, adding that Dish is most interested in protecting customers from "needless price increases" or for having to pay for content they are watching elsewhere.

Viacom is currently in the process of warning its viewers that its channels will leave Dish's platform by midnight Wednesday unless a new deal is reached.

"We are extremely disappointed that Dish has not engaged in a serious way to reach an agreement for Viacom's number one family of cable networks, including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, BET, Spike, TV Land and CMT," Viacom said in a statement. "This is par for the course for Dish, which has deliberately derailed 10 renewal negotiations since last year by engaging in unproductive discussions and contentious public battles."

Ergen did confirm that negotiations have improved since last week and clarified that there is no ill will between Dish and the programmer.

"We're not mad at them. Their content is good content," Ergen said, but he did say that other MSOs like Suddenlink that have taken down Viacom channels have done well eventually without the channels, and don't seem to regret the decision.

But Ergen did say that it's a zero sum negotiation with Viacom if it only comes down to dollars and cents and that Dish is more interested in working with content companies that are interested in new viewership and ad models that can help drive new revenue. He praised both ABC/Disney and Fox for their willingness to experiment outside of traditional linear TV models.

When asked about another carriage negotiation Dish has ongoing with NBC, Ergen said he was confident a deal that is good for Dish subscribers could be reached.

Dish in March notified the FCC that it would pursue binding arbitration with NBCUniversal in order to end a negotiating standoff with the programmer.

"If, at the end of the cooling off period, we have not reached an agreement with NBCU, we will have up to five days to formally request arbitration. In the event of arbitration, affected programming would remain available during that process, and for the foreseeable future," Dish said in a statement.

Related articles:
Viacom stock craters as programmer warns viewers of Dish blackout
Dish loses 23K pay-TV subs in Q1, still not breaking out Sling TV numbers
Dish tells FCC its going through with arbitration on NBCU renewal

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