Peter Kafka

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Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen Gets Real: The Full Dive Into Media Interview

ergen_2Last week, we hosted our second D: Dive Into Media conference in Dana Point, Calif. If you joined us in person, you got a day and a half to talk with and listen to the most interesting people in the media business as they spoke about the future of their industries. If you tuned in to our livestreams, you got a free, real-time sample of what that was like.

And if you missed the whole thing? Your loss!

But no worries: This week, we’ll start running complete videos of each of our onstage interviews and demos, so you can review them anytime you want. We’re kicking off today with Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, who rarely speaks in public, but sat down with us for an hour.

We’re so glad he did, because he has got one of the most interesting perspectives on the way technology is reshaping the TV business — and the ways that the TV business is stubbornly and successfully resisting change.

Some of this stuff parallels thoughts you’ve heard from other people — but usually not those with this much skin in the game. Ergen is a billionaire with the third-largest pay-TV business in America. So getting this stuff right matters a whole lot to him.

There’s a lot of great stuff in here. Like:

  • Ergen’s assessment of his odds as he tries to grab Clearwire’s spectrum out of Sprint’s clutches (low), and why he’s taking on CBS and every other broadcaster with his ad-skipping Hopper DVR (both for leverage and because his customers want it).
  • His explanation of why he bought Blockbuster (real estate) and why he failed to challenge Netflix (too late, too timid).
  • His take on cord-cutting, which you never hear pay-TV bosses say out loud. (Yep, it’s real. And cord-nevers — kids like his who don’t have pay TV and never had — are even real-er.)
  • What he thought of the Bloomberg Businessweek piece that described Dish as “The Meanest Company in America,” and whether his company’s work culture will let it compete with the likes of Google and Facebook. (Dish is not going to be supplying private buses for its workers anytime soon).

And the nice thing is that you get to sample as much, or as little, as you like. Enjoy, and come back for more over the next few weeks:


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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo