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Dish Chairman Says SVOD Services Like Discovery Plus Will “Affect Future Negotiations”

Jeff Kotuby

Could the addition of SVOD services that offer much of the same content as linear TV be at the center of future carriage disputes?

On today’s Q1 2021 earnings call, DISH Chairman Charlie Ergen said that in determining carriage of channels going forward, one of the major factors will be “what are the alternatives to get it.”

“I think in their strategic rooms they’re saying how do we keep these linear guys paying as much money as possible for as long as possible. While we go direct-to-the-consumer and cut them out.” Specifically Ergen cited that when they didn’t renew with HBO, “We didn’t lose many customers…because our relationship (with customers) was strong, and they watch Showtime, STARZ, and Netflix.”

When he was specifically asked about discovery+, he offered a candid look on the company’s feelings towards the broadcasting giant, saying that “they make great content, and we’ve had a long term relationship with them, but obviously that you can get it on an à la carte basis, it’ll affect future negotiations.”

Ergen said that the next deal with Discovery, “has to be at fair rate…that we can burden customers who don’t watch it.” As of now, Discovery and its brands HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, A&E, History Channel, and Travel Channel are available on Sling TV, though the service lacks Animal Planet, OWN, and as of right now, the upcoming Magnolia Network.

The two-sides last reached a deal in Fall 2018, when the channels came to Sling TV for the first time.

“A lot of our customers don’t watch Discovery — should we burden every customer with with Discovery if they can get it somewhere else?,” Ergen said. Currently, discovery+ subscribers cannot watch live feeds of Discovery TV stations but can access the company’s vast library of shows on-demand. The service also offers 24/7 feeds of popular shows but still does not replicate the live TV broadcast.

discovery+ has been an early success for Discovery. The company announced today that they expect to have 12 million subscribers by the end of February. Of those, ~4-5 million will be streamers of discovery+ in the U.S.

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