DISH Network customers have now been without access to HBO for over a month. The dispute between HBO and DISH has resulted in HBO implementing the first blackout in its history, removing its services from any DISH Network affiliated devices. Yes, that includes Sling TV users too. While this is certainly an inconvenience for thousands of DISH subscribers, the HBO dispute could actually have far greater implications.
There are two major issues that are coming from this blackout. First, and most obviously, this could lead to devastating subscriber losses from DISH. Many subscribers have left already, imagine how many more will leave if HBO decides to sign a deal with a DISH rival, like DirecTV. Coming off of a year that already saw DISH stock plummet over 39%, having to deal with a major subscriber loss could be potentially devastating for the satellite company.
The second problem arising from this blackout actually affects HBO’s parent company WarnerMedia, formally known as Time Warner. The much publicized AT&T and Time Warner merger is currently under appeal from the Justice Department. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has already “…said that the blackout is consistent with what it warned would result from the merger—that is, AT&T leveraging the content it has acquired in the takeover to lure customers to DirecTV.”.
No, the court looking at this case cannot use this new information as a basis for their ruling on the subject. However, it is silly to think that the judges will not be aware of the situation. It is very likely that this turn of events will have an influence on the type of question the judges ask and the lens with which they view the government’s case.
All of this is to say that this is not a great situation for AT&T or DISH Network. That may explain why HBO initially made an offer to DISH in an effort to avoid this blackout. Somewhat surprisingly, DISH decided to walk away.
It is worth noting that HBO itself is not directly involved in the Time Warner merger appeals process, as a subsidiary of AT&T, there is a connection that could be a red flag for many that are paying attention.
The satellite company seems to be betting that keeping this story in the news cycle is worse for AT&T than it is for them. While that may be true, both companies are still holding strong. If you are a DISH customer hoping to catch up on Game of Thrones before the new season starts, you may have to look elsewhere. It is very possible that this blackout becomes permanent.