The chairman of Dish Network, Charlie Ergen, has called an eventual merger between DirecTV and Dish Network “inevitable” on multiple occasions. But despite a couple of near-misses, that hasn’t happened yet.
AT&T is expected to soon close its spinning off of DirecTV, into a separate company that AT&T will control the majority of, with TPG owning the rest. And while that came as a result of a long bidding process, it’s not believed that that Dish was ever a serious contender to get involved with that bidding.
However, one thing changed recently: AT&T and Dish made a deal-not related to DirecTV, but rather for Dish to pay AT&T more than $5 billion over ten years, whereby Dish will pay AT&T to use its 4G and 5G networks, as part of Dish’s pivot to wireless telecom as it builds its own network.
“Through this agreement, DISH will provide current and future customers of its retail wireless brands, including Boost Mobile, Ting Mobile and Republic Wireless, access to best-in-class coverage and connectivity on AT&T’s wireless network, in addition to the new DISH 5G network,” the July press release from Dish said. “The agreement accelerates DISH’s expansion of retail wireless distribution to rural markets where DISH provides satellite TV services. AT&T is also providing transport and roaming services as part of the agreement, to support DISH’s 5G network.”
Does this mean it’s more likely that Dish and DirecTV will finally combine? That’s unclear, but the subject was recently raised by the TV Answer Man website.
Asked in a Q&A column whether the AT&T/Dish deal means a DirecTV tie-up could be on the way, Answer Man addressed the issue.
“AT&T and Dish announced last week that they had signed a multi-billion dollar pact to bring AT&T’s wireless service to Dish’s wireless customers. The agreement means that AT&T will replace T-Mobile as Dish’s primary wireless partner,” the site said.
“While the deal has nothing to do with DIRECTV, or any other AT&T-owned business, such as Warner Media, it has some analysts buzzing that it could lead to a satellite TV merger between the companies.”
The site also noted that a couple of factors-AT&T has long been known to “hate” Dish Network, while AT&T executives are said to have been bitter about a near-merger between the companies that fell apart in 2007. However, those factors have changed, with the AT&T/Dish deal and a change at the top of AT&T.
“The AT&T-Dish wireless agreement could only be the beginning and ultimately trigger a Dish-DIRECTV merger,” the site said. “While the companies might wait a year or so to improve the merger’s chances with federal regulators, it’s probably ‘inevitable,’ as Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has said on multiple occasions. The synergies that would come from a merger are too overwhelming to ignore, particularly as both satellite services lose more subscribers to cord-cutting and streaming.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.