Dish Chairman Ergen Doesn’t Want To Kill Ads, He Wants To Make Them Better

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen is no stranger to controversy, so it should be no surprise that he has a controversial plan for the future of advertising. At the D: Dive Into Media conference today, the outspoken pay TV executive said he didn’t want to kill advertising, but wanted to make those ads more relevant to consumers.

Dish’s campaign against ads began last year, when Dish released its Hopper DVR to its subscribers. Some of its key features include the ability to record a week’s worth of primetime content, and also to skip commercials. That rankled a lot of the broadcasters whose content it distributes.

Then at CES, Dish announced the latest version of the Dish Hopper, which not only allows users to skip commercials, but also lets them stream live and pre-recorded content to mobile phones, tablets and other devices. And today, the controversial product became available nationwide.

But according to Ergen, the end goal is not to kill TV ads on broadcasters, but to get TV partners to serve up more relevant ads. “I don’t think as a consumer that I want to see advertising that’s not relevant,” Ergen said. “With the hopper we have technology that allows us to target ads.”

Ergen also said that the pay TV world will eventually go a la carte, either because one of the big cable or satellite providers will break the model, or because the industry will be shaken up by outside providers like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. “Today, a lot of customers could live with Netflix and an over-the-air antenna and YouTube and they could be happy,” he said.

Seeing that writing on the wall, Ergen said Dish needed to embrace change and be a leader rather than follow. “You have two choices: You can fight change or you can embrace change,” Ergen said. “It’s less risky long term to embrace change. You can either lead and make the rules, or be a fast follower, or you can be a slow follower and pay more.”