Satellite TV providers DIRECTV and DISH Network have long been rumored to get together, especially with the satellite industry consistently shedding subscribers. But DISH Chairman Charlie Ergen poured cold water on the speculation.
“There are no plans DIRECTV,” Ergen said Monday on the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call. “Certainly for now.”
DISH is already busy with a pending combination with EchoStar, which Ergen also founded. The two businesses split in 2008 so they could focus on different aspects of the satellite business, with EchoStar focusing on satellite communications and networking technology, and DISH on the consumer side. The combined companies will take the EchoStar name, and EchoStar CEO Hamid Akhaven is taking over DISH next week after CEO Erik Carlson said he would resign.
The denial also comes after AT&T was reportedly looking to sell its remaining 70% stake in DIRECTV, with private equity firm TPG controlling the rest. With DISH and DIRECTV having attempted — and failed — to merge for years, the speculation over a deal between the two cropped again. In the past, the two companies likely would’ve faced regulatory scrutiny over a combination. But with the explosion of cord cutting the breadth of streaming options available, the government would likely approve a deal.
For now, DISH is focused on other priorities. Beyond the Echostar deal, the company is still on the hook to build out its nationwide network, as well as secure funding to buy spectrum from T-Mobile. Dish, with roughly $21 billion in debt, has struggled to secure loans to continue its 5G network buildout, and Ergen noted the challenges of obtaining funds to close the T-Mobile deal.
Dish is obligated by the Federal Communications Commission to cover 75% of the country with its 5G network by 2025, no small task given most of the more populous areas are already completed. The company just met its threshold of covering 70% of the country earlier this year.