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DISH CEO Says Retransmission Fees Have Peaked, Warns of ‘Unhealthy Place’ for Live TV Streamers

Ben Bowman

“Our vendors are competing with us in linear TV, so that’s an unhealthy place.” That’s the assessment of DISH founder Charlie Ergen.

In today’s earnings call, Ergen played prophet and skeptic as he laid out the competitive landscape. The company’s DISH TV and Sling TV units rely almost exclusively on the appetite for live streaming. But as nearly every media company launches its own services, these MVPDs are facing increasing competition for limited streaming dollars.

With a fractured media landscape and lower viewership for live TV, many providers have spent big to land sports deals. The NFL, in particular, has been a must-have property for streaming services, and fans who want to see every game will need several different subscriptions in the future.

Ergen flatly said retransmission fees have peaked, and that affiliate fees should be 50% lower. If you’ve ever gone shopping for a new live TV provider, you’ve been smacked with wild price differences. Philo keeps its price at $20 specifically by avoiding sports and local affiliates, which often drive up the costs. If you need regional sports networks, for example, you’re staring at a very expensive AT&T TV package to get the most coverage. Sling TV is unique in that it offers two different packages to try to blunt some of the costs associated with these pricey bundles.

  • Sling Orange ($35) doesn’t include any local channels.

  • Sling Blue ($35) includes local Fox and NBC channels in select major markets.

  • Sling Orange + Blue ($50) includes local Fox and NBC channels in select major markets.

  • Sling does not offer ABC, CBS, Telemundo, The CW or Univision in any package.

However, Sling TV has rolled out an integration with non-profit streaming service, Locast, which will bring locals in 30 markets to those that use an Android or Android TV device.

Ergen expressed some skepticism that live television still holds the allure many believe. “I mean how did the Academy Awards do this year?” Ergen asked. “It used to be must-see TV. It’s just changed.” With that stance, it will be interesting to see how DISH navigates into the future.

DISH Network closed the first quarter with 11.06 million Pay-TV subscribers, including 8.69 million DISH TV subscribers and 2.37 million Sling TV subscribers.

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