As part of Dish’s fourth quarter 2021 earnings call on Thursday, the company’s CEO Charlie Ergen shocked analysts by stating that he believed that a merger between his company and its main television competitor, DIRECTV, is “inevitable.”
After AT&T — DIRECTV’s parent organization — sold off 30% of the company last year, there has been speculation that some sort of partnership, either by merger or acquisition, could be in the cards for the country’s two major satellite television providers.
With the rise of streaming — Dish owns streamer Sling TV, and DIRECTV has their DIRECTV Stream platform — Ergen admitted on Thursday that it would be in both companies’ best interest to align, similar to what their radio counterparts Sirius and XM did in 2008.
“I think it’s inevitable that Dish and DIRECTV go together,” he said. “Otherwise, both companies will just melt away, and there’ll be no service for customers. The regulatory reasons to not allow it, don’t exist anymore … I think it’s inevitable.”
While such a move would obviously have major ramifications on the satellite side of television, the question remains how it would impact streaming. At this point, if the two satellite giants merged, it likely would not have a major impact on their respective streamers. What is currently known as DIRECTV STREAM (previously AT&T TV) could continue to operate as a standalone service, albeit likely with yet another new name.
With Dish far more focused on strategically expanding their streaming reach, the possibility of Dish’s Sling TV taking over operation of DIRECTV Stream in some way seems like the most straight-forward option. Ergen said that he didn’t have any idea as to when a potential merger could happen, but in other comments on the call, it was clear that he was not afraid to play hardball in order to position his company for longterm success.