Ergen Wants Disney Deal To Be ‘Best’

Suggests Disney Dropping Lawsuit Against AutoHop A Key Point in Talks

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen said that the aim of the satellite giant’s continuing carriage negotiations with The Walt Disney Co. is to make that relationship one of Dish’s best, and that could include having the content giant drop its ongoing litigation concerning the AutoHop ad-skipping digital video recorder service.

Dish’s Disney carriage deal expired on Sept. 30 but the two have been negotiating under a short-term extension agreement ever since. Last week, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said that negotiations were moving ahead but that issues involving technology were proving more complicated than first expected.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss third quarter results, Ergen said the talks are ongoing. And without revealing too many details, he said the roadblocks are consistent with other deals – economic and fee related – as well as issues around rights.

Ergen said that in the past, Disney’s relationship with Dish had not been the best – which he said was mostly his fault. But he would like to change that with this round of talks.

Ergen said he is prepared to go either way with Disney, including not having a relationship at all, which he added would have some short term pain but could have a longer-term benefit.

“One of the alternatives to that, which we’re focused on and what I think Disney is focused on, we would want to make Disney our best relationship,” Ergen said. “I’m not interested in a long-term relationship with Disney unless we can make it our best relationship in programming. …That’s the way we are approaching it … and if we can do that, let’s move forward. You don’t marry everybody you date. [But] Disney is a very pretty girl.”

Later, asked if that “best” relationship would mean Disney resolving all issues, including dropping its 2012 suit against the AutoHop, Ergen replied that if a company were trying to make its relationship with Dish the best, “I don’t know why you would want to be in court, either now or in the future.”

Ergen added that Dish is trying to convince all programmers that the AutoHop is a way for them to reap yet another revenue stream from a carriage relationship, through targeted advertising.

"Everybody has a DVR that can skip commercials,” Ergen said. “What we really are trying to get broadcasters to think about [is] if people are going to skip commercials, let’s recognize that fact. And if you recognize that people are going to skip commercials when they play thngs back on the DVR, is there a better way for us to go about monetizing that…?”