Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen said his planned over-the-top service is on target for release by the end of the year, reiterating that he is targeting a $30 per month charge for the service.
Ergen wouldn’t identify all of the channels the product will carry, but did say that he believes a charge of $1 per day could be a good place to start from.
“That limits how many channels you can put on it,” Ergen said during a conference call with reporters after the satellite company’s third quarter earnings call with analysts. Dish has already signed deals with The Walt Disney Co. (for its ESPN,ESPN 2, ABC broadcast stations , ABC Family and the Disney Channel networks), A+E Networks (for A&E, Lifetime, History, LMN, FYI, H2, History En Español, Crime + Investigation and Military History) and with Scripps Networks (for its HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel and Great American Country) to be carried on the OTT service. On the call, Ergen said he has signed on more networks, but did not identify them.
Ergen is not the only distributor that is planning an OTT offering – Verizon Communications and Sony have plans to launch their own OTT products in the coming months. And Home Box Office and CBS also have announced their own plans to launch OTT offerings in 2015.
While Ergen said he is signing on more networks– he did admit that the service is experiencing some technical problems that have delayed the launch – he added that he doesn’t expect every service to carry the same type of channels.
“We want to work with the people that want to work with us,” Ergen said of programmers. He added that in general, he is starting to see content providers become more willing to loosen their bundle of programming for the OTT service, which could translate into his broader satellite business.
“I think you have to innovate and try things to move forward as a company,” Ergen said. “The regular linear MVPD business is a mature business. You can’t just go back every day and say ‘I’m going to raise my rates to make my budget.’ You have to figure out other revenue streams and get other people to pay for your product and watch more minutes of your product.”
Ergen added that the landscape is changing particularly because consumers have several sources for content.
“Things like CNN are not quite the product that they used to be,” Ergen said. “You can imagine CNN down on an election night would be a disaster 15 or 20 years ago, but now there is plenty of other places for people to get news.”
Ergen’s comments seemed to contradict Discovery Communications’ CEO David Zaslav’s take on the subject during his company’s earnings call Tuesday morning. Zaslav said that while there seems to be a lot of publicity around OTT offerings and the potential to offer skinnier, cheaper packages to consumers, he didn’t see wholesale unbundling happening in the near term.
“If it moves that way it is likely to move very slowly,” Zaslav said on the call. “Unbundling, I just don’t see it happening.”
Zaslav was quick to add that if the market moved in that direction, Discovery is well positioned because it owns most of its content.