Ergen: Viacom Extension ‘A Positive’

Dish Network chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen said the extension of its carriage talks with  Viacom is “a positive,” but stressed that programming values have fallen as ratings have decreased across the board.

Viacom executive chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman let the cat out of the bag in his company’s Feb. 9 earnings conference call that the programmer had a brief extension in its negotiations with Dish. Most analysts saw that as a sign that at least the two were beginning to make progress in their talks.

On an earnings conference call with reporters on Thursday, Ergen said the extension was “a positive because we’re not down.”

Ergen said that the problem when networks go dark and return to carriage a month or so later, the distributor has already lost the customers who value that content. But he added that, especially with programmers that Dish has had a long relationship with, he doesn't spend a lot of time looking for loopholes.

“I don’t want to look at how we’re not going to do a deal; I want to look at how we are going to do a deal. The benefit of the doubt goes to our programming partner because they helped us build our business,” Ergen said. “Viacom is one of those long term partners for us; they helped us build our business.  It would take a lot for us not to move forward.”

At the same time, Ergen noted that programmers have to face reality when negotiating carriage deals.

“People have to be realistic that the viewership of their channel relates to the value of their channel,” Ergen said. “The availability of their content in other places to our consumers, they shouldn’t be forced to pay for it twice.”