DirecTV and Dish Network in merger talks once again

DirecTV and Dish Network are in renewed talks to merge after years of repeated, repeated wrangling and multiple clampdowns from federal antitrust officials, The Post has learned.

 The satellite-TV giant attempted a merger nearly two decades ago but was halted by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Department.  Sources said that two years ago, the DOJ also quietly cautioned officials of a possible deal, concerned about the nascent rollout of 5G.

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DirecTV and Dish Network

Now, however, insiders are optimistic that the Dish-DIRECTV deal could pass regulatory muster as concerns about the struggling companies’ market power ease, sources said.  Similarly, some officials argue that the merger could give a surprising boost to the troubled rollout of 5G wireless services in the US.

According to sources close to the situation, talks between the satellite-TV giants are being spearheaded by private-equity giant TPG Capital.  TPG bought 30 percent of DirecTV from AT&T last February in a deal that gave the struggling company an enterprise value of $16.25 billion.

 TPG is conducting talks. They want their investment back, said a source close to the situation.

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But Dish president Charlie Ergen – a former poker player famous for his difficult negotiations – is dragging his feet on finalizing a deal, seeking significant voting shares and making important decisions at the combined company.  Despite his minority status, according to sources.

Ergen has long believed that a deal is “inevitable” and that it is just an “issue of timing”, whether it is a decade or a day.  The merger of the two could result in up to $1 billion in cost savings.  And given the state of the satellite-TV market, Argonne may have no choice but to strike a deal as both services continue to bleeding customers.

  “I just don’t want to be the CEO rolling the dice with the DOJ right now,” an antitrust expert who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Post.  “The political climate is so tough.”

  Still, people close to the deal believe the two companies are under so much pressure that the DOJ will recognize their need to combine.  According to company filings, DirecTV currently has just over 15 million subscribers, down from over 25 million subscribers in 2017.  Dish has 8.4 million subscribers, which is over 13 million.

  “They’re coming together because that’s all that matters in the world,” said a person close to the deal.  “Both are decaying, dying channels – you can’t argue that’s an antitrust issue.”

In 2020, regulators from the DOJ’s Antitrust Division told AT&T executives that the marriage between DirecTV and Dish would have to wait until faster 5G wireless service became more widely available in rural markets, two sources close to the situation said.  He said.  Regulators were concerned that a combined company could drive up satellite TV prices.

However, the recent US infrastructure package has allocated $65 billion to build rural broadband.

Meanwhile, Dish has committed to building a 5G network that will serve 20 percent of the US by this summer and 70 percent of the US by the summer of 2023.  Dish has invested in 5G equipment over the past two years, but has failed to receive.  A single city covered.  If Ergen doesn’t meet build out requirements, the FCC could force it to give up its 5G spectrum.

Sources told The Post that while Ergon is in a tight spot, he has also been known to blow deals.  “They’ve left almost perfect deals in their wake – you can’t believe it’s done until the ink is dry.

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