Dish profit rises, chairman criticizes Comcast/TWC deal

Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:35pm EST
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(Reuters) - Satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp reported a 38 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit on Friday and the company's chairman said he saw "nothing good" for competitors if U.S. regulators approve the merger of Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable.

Dish shares rose 1.6 percent to $57.97 after it reported earnings-per-share of 63 cents, beating the 41-cent consensus forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said the combination of Comcast and Time Warner Cable would concentrate broadband, video and content in a "nationwide player."

"That's going to send a seismic shift across our industry in ways that maybe we can't predict today," he said on a conference call after the satellite TV provider released its results.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, said on February 13 that it had agreed to acquire No. 4 Time Warner Cable in an all-stock deal for $45.2 billion. The proposal faces reviews from U.S. regulators who will study its effect on competition.

Comcast has argued that the combination would not reduce competition because the two cable providers do not compete in any markets. The company pledged to divest 3 million subscribers, so the combined customer base of 30 million would represent just under 30 percent of the U.S. pay television video market.

Ergen said the deal, if approved, "certainly doesn't hurt the case for consolidation" of satellite TV providers. The U.S. government blocked a deal between Dish and DirecTV in 2002.

"If you take the No. 1 and 4 providers and put them together, it would be hard to see why you couldn't put the No. 2 and 3 providers together," he said. DirectTV is the nation's second largest pay TV provider after Comcast, and Dish is third.

Ergen said the merger would create advantages for the cable operator in negotiations with media companies that supply programming. "When they can combine and go buy content, they can go buy content cheaper than anybody else," he said.   Continued...

The sign in the lobby of the corporate headquarters of Dish Network is seen in the Denver suburb of Englewood, Colorado April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking