STRESA, ITALY —
Joe Clayton, president/ CEO of Dish Network, outlined plans for his company during a one-onone interview with Gary Shapiro, president/ CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), at its annual CEO Summit, here, earlier this month.
Clayton, the legendary RCA sales and marketing executive, former chairman of Sirius, former chairman of CEA and a CE Hall of Famer, shared with attendees his decision to join Dish Network full time last May and replace founder Charlie Ergen. He has continued as chairman.
Clayton explained he had been on the board of Dish’s parent company Echo- Star for two years and knew Ergen for 20 years. Clayton had been approached by Ergen a couple of times to be a fulltime executive with Dish, but he finally relented when Ergen had his wife Candy approach him at a board meeting earlier this year and said, “We need your help.”
Shapiro reminded the audience that Clayton was always a technology innovator, actively advocating in the early days that digital TV had to be FullHD and that when Clayton helped put DirecTV, his key competitor, on the map in the mid-1990s, “We signed a 1 million units or one-year exclusive [for the RCA brand under Thomson], and we sold the 1 million in 10 months at $800 each. And Charlie Ergen was a DirecTV distributor at the time.”
Clayton explained he took the job right after Ergen improved EchoStar’s capabilities by buying the Hughes Network, gained spectrum and brought Blockbuster. When Ergen made the Blockbuster deal, Clayton said, “I didn’t think that would work” as part of the Dish Network business, “but we have always been a technology innovator, first with the DVR. We bought Slingbox, and we didn’t have as many places as we wanted to demonstrate our technologies,” so Blockbuster fit the bill.
He explained, “We don’t have as many retail floors to demonstrate our technology as in the past. Now we have 1,500 of them” in cities. Dish is using those stores to go after the Latino market, using the stores for consumers to pay bills, and may have additional partners to get into the wireless business.
Clayton said his role at Dish is to “change the wireless business. I flunked retirement [he retired after being chairman of SiriusXM], but I have changed businesses [and introduced technologies] over the years like VCR, satellite TV and radio, and HDTV.”
When asked what his goals for Dish Network over the next five years are, Clayton said, “I hope we are a growing [multibillion dollar] company. With the pay-TV market saturated, I want to develop the Latino market, convert the commercial market from analog to digital, broaden Blockbuster with partners, and with what I call the ‘Ergen Wireless Company’ become a top three or four player in broadband and wireless ... behind AT&T and Verizon.”
Shapiro asked Clayton how the pending AT&T merger — whether it is successful or not — affects Dish’s wireless and broadband, and the Dish CEO quipped, “Part of our wireless play will be to have a telco partner — Spring, Lightspeed, Metro PCS, Leap, Quest … I hope I’m not forgetting anyone and mentioned all of them. We need a telecommunications partner.”
Clayton mentioned Dish’s Blockbuster Movie Pass, which began Oct. 1, is available to Dish Network customers starting at $10 per month, combining the best of TV with the best of movies and games. It features what Dish described as a “a pay- TV industry first: a subscription streaming movie service bundle available on the TV or PC.” Dish claimed the package “is unmatched by any other cable, satellite, telco or online streaming movie service.”
Clayton noted, “Blockbuster will offer streaming real soon … and add more service providers. The whole world is changing, and it is coming out of the Cloud.”
Clayton said Dish can provide movie, TV and subscription movie services via satellite, streaming or via the Cloud. “We can do all of the above — one company, one bill, one connection.”
When Shapiro asked about the future of subscription services and the theories about “cord-shaving” — cutting back on satellite or cable TV services by consumers or “cord-nevers,” who are young people who just watch TV via the web — Clayton said, “The subscription [model] won’t go away, it will be modified. We hope to be focused on what consumers want and not an ‘all you can eat’ [subscription] approach.”
Clayton concluded with a mantra that has been his sales and marketing view since his days at RCA: “We have to provide ease of use, choice, variety and value.”