Ergen: OTT service on track for this year, Turner channels may not come back to Dish

Despite running into several technical challenges in areas ranging from billing to encryption to ad insertion, Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) Chairman Charlie Ergen says his company still plans to launch its pared-down OTT-based pay-TV service by the end of the year.

"We're running into a few snags, but we still plan to meet our self-imposed year-end deadline," Ergen told investors and press during Dish's third-quarter earnings call Tuesday.

Addressing a wide range of issues, Ergen said the new OTT service will skew to young, male, apartment-dwelling sports enthusiasts. He confirmed the price point for the new service will come in at around $30 a month.

"It's going to be a really good product that you don't have to wait for installation for," he said. "You won't have to worry about recording things. [Programming] will be in the cloud. It will be user-friendly, and tie into [users'] devices."

Investors took aim at the low margin of the OTT service, but Ergen responded that the addressable advertising benefits that could be rendered down the road might render unforeseen profits.

"This could allow us to move into some categories that the Facebooks and the Googles are taking advantage of today," the Dish chairman said.

Ergen, meanwhile, used the earnings call to strike a hard line position in negotiations with Turner Networks.

With licensing renewal talks at an impasse, Dish pulled CNN and Cartoon Network off its program guides in October. Ergen said TNT and TBS will probably be removed soon, as well. And as Dish looks to cut costs, he said Turner Networks might not be coming back to its service.

"When we take something down, we're prepared to take it down forever," Ergen said. "We would prefer to get a deal done. We have a time frame we look at, but if we don't have a deal, we might make a long-term decision to go another direction."

Pushing the boundaries of caustic commentary directed at a media company, Ergen delivered the following Turner-targeted slights: CNN, he said, only has half the audience it used to and is no longer a programming force; you can get animated kids content like that found on Cartoon Network pretty much anywhere; TNT and TBS original programming doesn't match up with AMC's; and even TNT's NBA and NCAA Basketball programming isn't that special, given that you can find those sports in other places like ESPN.


Ergen continued his assault on the Time Warner Inc.-owned programmer by saying he "only wants to work with media companies who want to innovate" and not those "who want to deliver less and charge more."

Also taking a hardline stance on CBS, with which Dish is reportedly far apart in terms of retrans renewal, Ergen minimized the potential issue by saying that any blackout will only apply to markets where CBS has owned-and-operated stations. He also said CBS' newly announced OTT service makes the broadcaster's programming less valuable to pay-TV operators.

For more:
- listen to the Dish earnings call

Earnings roundup: Sizing up pay TV earnings for the third quarter of 2014

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