Dish CEO Clayton Chastises Cable, Broadcasters


Washington -- In rostrum-thumping remarks complete with “Hallelujahs” and “Amens,” Dish president and CEO Joe Clayton criticized “incumbent broadcasting, cable and content companies” for refusing “to challenge the status quo.”  He said such initiatives would force them “to embrace innovation … invest in the future or incur some risk” – suggesting that those industries are not truly committed to such processes.

Clayton’s remarks, which came as he accepted a “Digital Patriot” award from the Consumer Electronics Association, also included a few details about Dish’s proposed $25 billion acquisition of Sprint. Nextel Corp.

“We would have the ability to reach consumers wherever they go with services that are easy to understand, affordable and available anywhere,” Clayton said.  “By utilizing the latest in wireless technology – LTE – in combination with over 100 MHz of spectrum, this new corporate entity can provide the American consumer with exactly what he or she wants: one national in-home and out-of-home bundled service with wireless, voice and data at one attractive retail price on one bill.:

 “This revolutionary new service would check all the consumer-centric boxes,” Clayton added, an allusion to the underlying theme of his preaching-to-the-choir audience about the consumer electronics industry‘s strength in developing consumer-friendly devices.

The feisty executive, sometimes lapsing into his native Kentucky twang, recalled the “zealous” opposition to the introduction of the home satellite industry.

“One cable pioneer insisted that ‘DBS’ – Direct Broadcast Satellite – stood for ‘Don’t Be Stupid,’” Clayton pronounced.

“Do not let the deep pockets of the large incumbent corporations and their highly paid lobbyists stifle the march of innovation,” he said, referring to media and communications carriers as he spoke to an audience that included quite a few well compensated lobbyists as well as global industry executives. Clayton mockingly lamented that there were no honorific remarks from broadcasters in the testimonial video that preceded his introduction.

Clayton was the “industry” inductee onto CEA’s annual “Digital Patriots” roster, which included Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado). CEA also gave its new “Innovation Policy Ninja” award to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee; that award leverages the Association’s “Ninja Innovation” campaign, which also happens to be the title of a new book by CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro.  

Clayton’s strongest criticism slapped at broadcasters, who are fighting Dish’s ad-skipping “Hopper” functionality. He also took a poke at the incident during January’s International CES when a CNET “Best in Show” Award to Hopper was retracted after CNET parent CBS demand the action. CBS is involved in a lawsuit against the ad-skipping capability.

CEA itself later re-instated the award to Hopper and severed its long relationship with CNET.

Without mentioning names, Clayton said that broadcasters “mistakenly believe that they can prevail if they just keep the American consumer in the dark.”

“Some even censor their own news organizations and network actors for recognizing the consumer benefit of new technology,” he said. “When they cannot win in the court of public opinion, they side-step the truth by suing you, calling you names and resorting to ‘bully’ or other threatening tactics in the press.”

Clayton criticized media companies for abandoning their role as “the watch dog of democracy and objectivity.”  

“Now they are purveyors of their own propaganda," he said.

Clayton’s receptive audience, dominated by consumer electronics executives and lobbyists, included a sizeable contingent of congressional and FCC staff members plus several members of Congress.  They heard his plea for products that give consumers “the freedom to watch … video content in the home, on a mobile phone a tablet or PC.”

“Why not use today’s technology to better target the appropriate audience?” Clayton said in relationship to Dish’s work on developing targeted commercials. Believe it or not, I really want to work with broadcasters to make advertising more effective.”

Clayton was clearly pleased to celebrate his 40 years in the industry, which included a term as chairman of CEA during his long career at the old RCA company, where he helped introduce Video Cassette Recorders and advanced TV displays.  He was also CEO of the beleaguered Global Crossing North America (from which, unlike some fellow executives, he escaped unscathed) and chairman of Sirius Satellite Radio before joining Dish.