Friday, June 8, 2012

Charlie Ergan Speaks

It's worth checking out the article on Charlie Ergan in today's Wall Street Journal.  There has been quite a bit of press recently on his company, Dish Network.  From his latest DVR that completely hops over ads to his fight with AMC Networks and their former parent company Cablevision over Voom, Charlie doesn't seem to mind a battle. 

Although the article speaks only about his Auto Hop service, he clearly has opinions on the future of TV and advertising.  "With the new service, Mr. Ergen aims to force the networks to develop 'more meaningful' ads, using, for example, demographic targeting of viewers."  But how can networks show more "meaningful ads" if ads are immediately skipped over.  What does Charlie really want?

Perhaps his real point is that the networks are offering the same content with less ads on other platforms, like Hulu.  Viewers, like his children, are bypassing cable subscriptions for the web.  "Mr. Ergen, 59 years old, says four of his five children have stopped paying for a TV subscription, and the fifth is living home."  Viewing habits are changing whether Dish is skipping ads or not.  His ploy may be to find ways to get networks to lower their costs to him so he can lower his costs to subscribers and win them back.  At the end of the day, he certainly has gotten the attention of the network executives.

So what is Ergan's next move?  He is also holding on to wireless spectrum with an opportunity to build out a competing service.  The costs to build are enormous and Ergan may want to consider a partnership with an existing mobile carrier.  AT&T couldn't do a deal with T-Mobile.  Perhaps Charlie can.  The future is two way wireless of voice, video, and data and Charlie Ergan seems intent to compete with a cost effective model. 

As to the networks, the Auto Hop feature is already out of the box.  You can't turn back technology.  Tivo and the DVR was the first step; consumers want to skip commercials.  As Ergan intimated in the interview, a new creative approach is needed.  Less breaks and more innovative and targeted ads could help.  Viewers are changing habits and it is time to take notice.


  1. This was a great write up! Just a heads up though, this isn’t new technology. There was VCR Plus. Which automatically skipped the commercials, as well as a more recent DVR based effort; but no one has stuck to it, which I think is a shame. This is absolutely what the people want. I myself have been wishing I could just entirely skip the commercials for years now. Unlike some, I don’t think this is the doom-whistle for television or advertising. Ad companies are just going to have to get more creative, like they did when they first found out you could watch shows online. I love it, personally. It’s perfect for my busy life. Between school, my wife, our two kids, and my full time job at Dish, watching I don’t have much time fo0r “appoinement TV”. It doesn’t exist. About 90% of everything I watch has been recorded of PrimeTime Anytime, so it works out really well for me.

    1. Why don’t CBS, FOX, and NBC execs want consumers to enjoy commercial-free TV? It’s what we want! I’m a customer and employee of Dish, and I think AutoHop is great because you can easily watch commercial-free TV. A well known consumer advocacy group, Public Knowledge, agrees that people should have the right to control how they watch TV. They’re taking a stand for consumers by creating a petition that tells CBS, FOX, and NBC media to keep their hands out of your living room and DVR. Sign their petition to keep control of how you watch TV