Charlie Ergen has always been a gambler. Now the Dish Network chairman is taking a flier on accepting the Internet currency Bitcoin as payment for pay-TV bills.
Dish trumpeted its decision in a news release on Thursday, declaring that it will be “the largest company to accept bitcoin.” The sat-TV provider will begin accepting Bitcoin payments starting in the third quarter.
“We always want to deliver choice and convenience for our customers and that includes the method they use to pay their bills,” said Bernie Han, Dish’s exec VP and chief operating officer. “Bitcoin is becoming a preferred way for some people to transact and we want to accommodate those individuals.”
Dish’s move smacks of a PR effort to bring attention to the company that is seen as being the odd-man out amid the spate of merger deals in the MVPD arena. Its larger sat-TV rival, DirecTV, sealed a $67.1 billion merger agreement with AT&T earlier this month. Dish appears to be focusing its future on offering an expanded over-the-top package of channels via broadband, and has made progress in setting such carriage deals with Disney and a few other programmers.
Bitcoin has been in the headlines during the past year as the media and financial markets debate whether it is a flash in the pan that could eventually cost some investors billions or a new form of currency for the digital age. There’s also been much speculation about who invented Bitcoin and how trading in the currency will ultimately be policed.
Dish said it would contract with San Francisco-based Coinbase to process its Bitcoin payments. Coinbase describes itself as a “Bitcoin consumer wallet and merchant payment processing platform that, founded in June 2012, now powers 1.3 million consumer wallets and supports 31,000 merchants.”