On an earnings call with investors Wednesday, Turner CEO John Martin said he was dismayed by comments Dish chairman Charlie Ergen made this week asserting that the company was willing to live without CNN, TNT, TBS and other channels.
“We honestly have no idea what Dish was talking about yesterday,” said Martin, who added that he was disappointed in the “antagonistic and aggressive” nature of Ergen’s remarks.
Dish is assembling the first Internet-delivered pay-TV services in the U.S. — an offering that Turner had agreed to participate in. Now, Martin said Turner’s cooperation was “unclear now.”
Dish hasn’t carried eight Turner channels including Cartoon Network, HLN, Tru TV and others since Oct. 21. Deals for TBS and TNT are set to expire soon, which could mean those networks will go dark as well.
A combative Ergen said Dish was prepared for any fallout that might happen should a new deal fall through.
“When we take something down, we’re prepared to leave it down forever,” said Ergen.”Things like CNN are not quite the product that they used to be.”
He went on to say that blackouts might lead to subscriber defections, but noted, “We would prefer to get a deal done. But we have a time frame that we look at and there comes a point in time, certainly during this month, if we don’t have a deal [then] we just make a long-term decision to go a different direction.”
Martin said he was surprised by the response because the parties had been working constructively toward a new agreement.
“It’s fair to say we disagreed with virtually everything he said,” said Martin, adding that “while there clearly were more deal points to get done, they were not of the type of nature that would result in networks going dark.”
Martin’s comments came after parent company Time Warner reported higher than projected third quarter earnings.