The long-proposed merger between the country’s two direct-to-home satellite TV services could be moving closer to reality, if recent comments by DISH Network chairman Charlie Ergen prove to be more than wishful thinking.

Ergen, speaking to analysts following the company’s Q3 earnings report Wednesday, said that he continues to believe the satellite TV merger is “inevitable,” and that the possibility of that happening could be getting closer as election day approaches.

Irrespective of political party preferences, he explained that discussions for such a deal were difficult ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections due to the politics around big corporate consolidations.

“When an election is going on, you don’t really want to — you’re hesitant to be a political football for somebody to complain about big companies or whatever in an election cycle — but that election cycle is over next week, and then you have a window, where I think all companies are looking at M&A” he said.

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Merger talks between the two satellite TV operations have repeatedly surfaced over the past two decades, getting very close in 2001, before being denied for anti-trust concerns. But Ergen believes that following the elections, the political timing could now be right and the market conditions have changed sufficiently to make merger approvals successful.

“If there was a timing — the timing was right, it would be in the near term, not the longer term,” he said, adding that objections to a merger should have been diminished by “the degradation of the linear TV business and competition from dozens of companies in the OTT business and the proliferation of broadband today.”

“We’ve seen viewership decline 15 years in a row on the networks and retrans go up by 1,000%. That’s not sustainable,” he said.

DirecTV is currently 70% owned by AT&T and 30% owned by Texas Pacific Group, a private equity firm.

In its Q3 earnings report, DISH Network reported revenues of $4.1 billion, down 8% from $4.45 billion in the same period a year ago. Net income fell to $412 million from $557 million a year ago.

In the period, the company said it added 214,000 subscribers to its live OTT subscription streaming service Sling TV since the second quarter for a total of 2.411 million, but lost subscribers from both Sling TV and DISH satellite TV since Q3-2021. At the end of September, the company’s total pay TV subscribers stood at 10.018 million, down 9% from the year ago quarter.

DISH now has 7.607 million satellite subscribers, down 817,000 from a year ago. .

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By Greg Tarr

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