After spending $13.3 billion (Dish received a $3.3 billion subsidy for letting its small-business designated entities do the bidding) to acquire spectrum from the Federal Communications Commission, Ergen is focusing on a sale of the traditional package of Internet, phone and television, according to a report Friday by The New York Post, citing unnamed sources.
For a company long relegated to selling satellite-TV service, initially to rural areas, the ability to sell Internet, phone and TV would be a huge development. It would also go a long way toward placating investors who had watched Dish lose 15% from a recent high on Feb. 20 to the publication of the New York Post story.
Shares of Englewood, Col.-based Dish were gaining 1.6% to $67.50, further fueled by a Yahoo! Finance report that Ergen is looking to hire a chief marketing officer to take the lead on his triple-play idea. An announcement from Ergen may be weeks away.
At the center of Dish's triple-play promotion would most likely be Sling TV, the company's 22-channel "skinny" television bundle that includes ESPN and is tailored for younger consumers to access on mobile devices. Sling TV, which also offers TNT, CNN and AMC, has emerged as the test case for trimmed-down bundles.
On Disney's (DIS) second quarter earnings call earlier this month, CEO Robert Iger referred to Sling as something of a test case, a means to attract the roughly 12 million U.S. households that have a high-speed Internet connection but no pay-TV service.
Clearly, Ergen has his sights set higher.
Ergen has long been a tough negotiator, willing to wrestle with a content provider as large as 21st Century Fox (FOXA) and Time Warner's (TWX) Turner Broadcasting even if it meant losing subscribers, which is what happened to Dish over the past roughly six months. Dish has lost about 300,000 subscribers over the past year.
Indeed, Ergan has always appeared to relish a fight, whether with the networks that have long supplied his service with content, or the country's largest broadband operators that make their money selling Internet, phone and television. And while Dish's total subscriber numbers have trailed the broadband providers, Ergen may be better positioned than ever given the possibilities afforded by his massive spectrum purchase.
"[While] Charlie has been saying over and over that he is trying to be a differentiated player in the wireless industry, investors do like the fact that there is some sort of movement here," Marci Ryvicker, a Wells Fargo media analyst, wrote in a May 15 investor note.
Consumers eager for Internet options apart from Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, may also be happy as well.