“It’s a great time to draft on the momentum that Comcast and [TWC] are going to achieve, and they will,” said industry consultant Jimmy Schaeffler of The Carmel Group.
Charlie Ergen is looking for a ride — on Brian Roberts’ coattails.
With regulators about to begin considering the antitrust issues raised by combining two giant cable companies — Time Warner Cable and Roberts’ Comcast — the Dish Network boss is making advances on DirecTV.
Ergen’s thinking, sources said: If they let the No. 1 and No. 2 cable guys get together, why not us?
Ergen reached out to Mike White, CEO of rival DirecTV, soon after Comcast announced its $45 billion takeover of TWC on Feb. 13 — to discuss a possible hookup, according to a report.
But White brushed the thought aside, thinking regulators at the Department of Justice would never go for it.
Regulators rejected a previous marriage proposal between the two in 2002.
But 2002 might as well have been 1902, as the landscape has dramatically evolved in the last 12 years, with distributors claiming they’re competing with market-share-grabbing telcos and with a myriad of over-the-top online video plays like YouTube and Netflix.
“They’re going to let Comcast ram the gate open,” said one pay-TV industry veteran. “Charlie has been groping around with spectrum. He’s in a mess with LightSquared. They need each other to survive.”
Discussions within Dish, with 14 million subscribers, about approaching DirecTV and its 20 million subs have been in the wind since Comcast made its play for TWC, sources said.
The recent Ergen move was reported Wednesday by Bloomberg.
“It’s a great time to draft on the momentum that Comcast and
[TWC] are going to achieve, and they will,” said industry consultant Jimmy Schaeffler of The Carmel Group.
Pay-TV subscribers fell by 251,000 last year, SNL Kagan reported earlier this month, while the satellite sector grew by a measly 170,000 subscribers.
Craig Moffett, cofounder of MoffettNathanson Research, wrote last year that the synergies of a merger between the two satellite players would be an eye-popping $30 billion — more than Dish’s $28 billion market cap.
In a report out Wednesday, Moffett said the odds of getting a Dish-DirecTV merger past Washington are “very, very low” because competition in the pay-TV market would be reduced from three rivals to two in 46 percent of the US.
In rural areas (about 9 percent of the US), options would go from two to one, Moffett wrote.
Dish and DirecTV declined comment.
News of the talks sent DirecTV shares up 5.7 percent, to $77.34. Dish shares popped 6.3 percent, to $62.09, Wednesday.