MediaFile

Dish’s Charlie Ergen: Me and Mel don’t have a beef

Ah the media, we love a ruckus. We really do. And when the two pugilists are characters as colorful and savvy as Dish Network’s founder Charlie Ergen (left) and Siriux XM Satellite Radio CEO Mel Karmazin (right) we do really get excited.

If you remember, Ergen was widely reported last month to have made a back door bid to take a stake in Sirius XM by quietly buying up some of the satellite radio company’s outstanding debt.  Analysts and experts came up with all kind of theories as to Ergen’s ambitions including taking complete control of Sirius on the cheap, combining various satellite assets, and kicking Mel out.

At the time Ergen ‘s official channels at Dish and EchoStar declined to comment on the matter. So today’s Dish earning call was the first time we heard from the man himself on the matter. Well, it turns out the press was right on most things connected with the Sirius bid, according to Ergen. Except for one thing: he does not have bad blood with Sirius CEO Karmazin.

Here’s Ergen from the conference call:

I would take this opportunity to say one thing that clearly was not true is there wasn’t, at least I can speak for my end, there’s no annimosity toward Mel, Parsons [former XM chair] or anything like that.

I don’t know where they got that. Certainly not from our side.

Really?

Maybe the stories of an old feud were overplayed, but there might have something other than pure cold financial logic that influenced Mel’s final decision on this deal. Liberty Media beat Ergen in the bid for a stake in the beleaguered satellite radio business by offering to pay off Sirius’ due loans. In an interview with Reuters shortly after winning the Sirius bid last month, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei implied there may have been some… ahem, personality issues in its favor.

Liberty: Stern is safe — for now

So after two weeks of following all the twists and turns of Sirius XM’s attempts to avoid bankruptcy, CEO Mel Karmazin decided on John Malone, founder of Liberty Media, to come in as Sirius XM’s white knight with a $530 million loan . The loan will cover the satellite radio provider’s looming debt and help it avoid bankruptcy. As part of the deal Liberty will eventually take a 40 percent stake in Sirius’ equity.

But does this mean the big money deals that Karmazin signed with the likes of Howard Stern, Oprah Winfrey and Major League Baseball will get re-worked at a more favorable rate for the company now that there’s a new major stakeholder?

No, says Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei in an interview with Reuters.

You can look and say some of these content deals were cut at a time when there were two guys (Sirius and XM) bidding against each other in a relative frenzy. Having said that, a lot of these content relationships like Howard Stern are very valuable to this company, have been important in building the company, and are likely to be important in sustaining it.

Sirius XM shares are — wait for it — higher!

Sirius XM shareholders have seen a lot of dark days — face it, we’re talking about a stock that dropped to 15 cents a share. But today isn’t one of them. At least so far.

Indeed, shares of the satellite radio company jumped 100 percent after Liberty Media Corp agreed to lend it $530 million, allowing Sirius XM and its leader, Mel Karmazin, to sidestep a debt crisis.

The deal comes after a breathless week during which Sirius XM came under threat from EchoStar Corp and its top man Charles Ergen, a longtime rival of Karmazin, and looked very close to bankruptcy.

Karmazin, Ergen and Malone: paper tigers?

When media moguls duke it out, what’s their battleground? Newspapers, evidently.

For the past week, EchoStar boss Charlie Ergen and Sirius XM radio’s CEO Mel Karmazin have been doing battle on the pages of two venerable dailies, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The Journal had a head start on the story, reporting how Ergen had started buying up Sirius debt in an attempt to force the satellite radio company into a deal. Then, it revealed how Ergen had actually made an offer to buy Sirius, which Karmazin rejected.

While the rest of the media was digesting all this, out came the Times with a story that said Sirius was preparing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which could come within days. It had even hired bankruptcy experts, the Times wrote. The Journal quickly swatted that idea down, saying:

An unclear future for DISH?

charlieergen1999.jpgWall Street sell-side analysts seemed to be unsurprised by AT&T’s decision to pick DirecTV as its video marketing partner for its version of the ‘triple play’ package, in regions where it hasn’t built out its U-verse digital service.

The final decision had seemed obvious to analysts after DISH said earlier this month that AT&T would extend its five-year relationship by just one month to Jan 31.

But what does it mean for the independent DISH and its maverick founder/CEO Charlie Ergen (pictured), with the No. 2 U.S. satellite TV provider already struggling with customer losses in a tough economy?

Bill Gates + Jerry Seinfeld = What?!!???

microsoft.jpgJerry Seinfeld, a huge marketing budget, and well-respected agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky would seem a recipe for success. Unfortunately for Microsoft, which kicked off a $300 million advertising campaign last night, the first commercial debuted to lukewarm reviews.

Microsoft is hoping to improve the image of its Windows Vista operating system and take some of the sting out of those popular “Mac vs. PC” advertisements run by Apple. It hired Seinfeld to help, and the first commercial featured the comedian and Bill Gates at a shoe store.

The problem, it seems, is that many people just didn’t get the commercial.  Here’s a sampling.

TiVo CEO: Subscribers will come

ParrotsA couple of years ago, if you had suggested TiVo and DirecTV would ever kiss and make up — after DirecTV dumped TiVo in favor of DVRs by NDS (then a cousin in the News Corp Family) — you might have said it was as likely as “90210″ coming back to TV.

Well one day after the new “90210” premiered on the WB network, TiVo and DirecTV said they are working on a new HD TV set-top box. The agreement puts TiVo in a position to turn a bigger portion of DirecTV’s 16+ million customers into TiVo subscribers, in a deal that TiVo says will reap more in fees than previous agreements.

Reuters spoke to TiVo CEO Tom Rogers about the deal.

Reuters: This is kind of like getting back together with your first love.
Rogers: I’ve been saying for a long time that with DirecTV’s ownership by Liberty Media, it created a new atmosphere and a new environment. I think the management of DirecTV has always been supportive of TiVo and believes that we can put together a very exciting offering.