Currently, Dish Network’s 14 million subscribers do not have access to CNN or other Turner Broadcasting channels like the Cartoon Network. Speaking specifically of CNN, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen ridiculed the left-wing cable news network’s obsessive coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner and said losing the channel was a “non-event.”
“Twenty years ago, CNN was a must-have channel, but it’s not a top 10 network anymore … unless they find the plane, the Malaysian plane,” Ergen said during a conference call. He added that losing CNN just days before a major midterm election would have been “a disaster” for Dish a decade ago, but there have been “few subscriber losses after the channel’s removal because viewers now have plenty of sources for news.”
Keep in mind that Ergen is currently negotiating with Turner and that this dismissive attitude is undoubtedly part of a negotiating strategy. He is correct, though, that a decade ago Dish would’ve felt more pressure to make a deal with CNN with a big midterm election on the horizon. The truth is that CNN just isn’t what it used to be. Not only have the ratings tanked, so has its credibility. Despite this, according to Ergen, CNN came at Dish with a double digit price increase:
We know how many minutes people watch CNN and how many minutes they watched five years ago and it’s hard to pay a double-digit price increase for something that people are watching half as much as they used to watch. It’s Turner’s job to make their product better. Not ours… When they make the product better, they make more money from it.
Ergen is undoubtedly a CEO who sees the future. Dish will soon offer a low-cost streaming package called a “skinny package” for around $30 a month. In a world where Netflix is $9.99 per month, that is probably still too high, but Dish is at least attempting to try and figure out a way to keep the lucrative bundled television package alive in the streaming era.
A loss of 14 million subscribers is a big deal for Turner and CNN. Although no one watches, CNN still pockets a nice piece of change from every household forced to subscribe to a cable or satellite package that carries CNN. This racket is how CNN (and dozens of other low-rated networks) manage to stay alive despite having no viewers.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC