ERGEN: DISH WILL DISTRIBUTE OTT SERVICE THROUGH ROKU, CHROMECAST, KINDLE FIRE, CONNECTED TVs

By Steve Donohue, for [itvt]

Dish Network won’t deploy new streaming video set-tops to launch a virtual pay TV service since it will be able to run on existing connected TV devices, Chairman Charlie Ergen said Wednesday.

“If you have a smart TV or [Chromecast] or Roku box or Kindle Fire, you don’t need us to roll a truck. It can be immediate,” Ergen said on Dish’s first-quarter earnings call.

Dish signed a landmark distribution deal with Walt Disney Co. in March that includes rights to package Disney, ABC and ESPN in an “over-the-top, personal subscription service.” Ergen said that Dish has signed carriage deals with additional programmers that give it enough content to launch the OTT service. And while he noted that Dish is shooting to launch the new product by the end of 2014, he said that the company doesn’t anticipate that it will debut this year.

With cable operators and telcos using broadband Internet access to anchor triple-play packages, Dish has struggled in recent years to grow subscribers for its satellite TV service. Ergen, who launched Dish (then known as Echosphere) in 1980 by selling C-Band satellite receivers, said the company’s future growth will come from selling broadband over-the-top video and mobile services.

“We’re willing to obsolete ourselves by going to the next generation of where this thing is going, which is in-home and at-home fixed OTT and mobile,” Ergen said. "And it would be malpractice not to do that because then we would be … a business that would be declining at 4 percent, 5 percent a year. And that's just not what we chose to do. History will prove us right or wrong. I think the jury's out.”

Dish has been growing its arsenal of broadband wireless spectrum licenses, shelling out $1.56 billion in March to acquire all 176 H-Block spectrum licenses that the FCC sold through an auction. While Dish hasn’t yet launched a commercial mobile service that would compete with Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, Ergen said the company sees significant opportunities to grow revenue by selling programming and interactive advertising through a new mobile product.

“Every part of infrastructure that we put in place for OTT is exactly the infrastructure we need for mobile. And for mobile, the advertising is even better. Because in mobile, we're going to a smart device and we're going to know your physical location and we're going to make it interactive,” Ergen said. He also hinted that Dish sees opportunities to add an e-commerce or t-commerce component to interactive ads, as he noted that the company will have credit card information from subscribers. “And the ads are, in fact, interactive. They're not static ads,” he added.