This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, February 26, 2002. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: EchoStar and Hughes are just itching to get the thumbs-up on their proposed satellite merger. The companies behind the Dish Network and DirecTV unveiling a plan today that would offer local channels under their merged company.
Earlier, I spoke to EchoStar (DISH) chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen, and I asked if he was greasing the skids for approval of that merger.
CHARLES ERGEN, CHAIRMAN & CEO, ECHOSTAR: We think it is just good business and it's good for American consumers, the fact that for the first time, Americans, over 40 million Americans who don't have a choice of local providers except the dominant cable provider will have a choice now of a satellite provider to provide local channels we think is good business.
CAVUTO: There are still a lot of folks who say even with this, your deal will never go through, that there are so many antitrust, anti- competitive concerns, it ain't going to happen. What do you say?
ERGEN: Well, we disagree. I mean, I think that with the merger, with the added capacity, by putting the capacity together with the added scale and economics, the fact that we're going to be able to provide all Americans, whether in a city of five or a town of 5 million homes, high- speed Internet access, local television, 500 channels of cable television, high-definition television and interactive services, the fact we can provide that throughout the entire nation at the same price as people in the big cities I think is overwhelmingly positive for consumers, and as a result, is good policy.
CAVUTO: Some of your shareholders worry though, Charlie, that if you have to make a number of allowances to get this deal through, for example, putting a cap or at least a sustained cap on price increases, you're going to hurt your business and that this isn't a good thing. What do you say?
ERGEN: Well, I mean, I focus on consumers and if we do something good for consumers, if we have a product that's competitive with cable, that's better than cable, that's going to be good business for our company. And if it's good business for our company in the long term, our stock price will reflect that.
CAVUTO: If this were not to go through for some reason, would you entertain talks with Rupert Murdoch, obviously the head of News Corp, (NWS) the parent of this network, in some way shape or form? Now he obviously would probably look again at DirecTV. Would you be talking to him?
ERGEN: Well I have, of course, you know, a great amount of respect for Mr. Murdoch and all that he's accomplished and everything that he's done at News Corporation. But this merger is going to go through. This merger is for the benefit of American public and it is going to provide competition to the dominant cable television industry. It has 78 percent of the pay TV business and I'm very, very confident that this merger will ultimately be approved.
CAVUTO: The fact is again and again, Charlie, people say that what happens here is that you're still the only way people can get TV in some of the rural areas of this country, and that you might promise, you know, cut- rate services and more bang for your buck. But the fact of the matter is what got regulators upset is the fact that you're the only guy in town, and that because of that, this won't happen.
ERGEN: Well, that's actually wrong. There's no guy in town in rural America today. There's a no-opoly. There is nobody there. Nobody is providing high-speed Internet access. The phone company is not going to do it and the cable company is not going to do it. The broadcasters are not providing local channels and that's why cable television started. And they are certainly not going to provide high-definition television as they file for extensions at the FCC this week.
So the only way that people in rural America are going to get that choice is to see this merger, combine the spectrum, combine the basis for economic reasons so that we can go out and do that. And that's more choice for Americans in rural America. It's not less.
CAVUTO: So, let's say you do get this deal. Would you then entertain chatting with Rupert Murdoch about a linkup with him in one way, shape or form?
ERGEN: Well, certainly, News Corp is one of the big programming providers and content providers along with, of course, some other companies and if you want to be a good distribution...
CAVUTO: No, I'm talking something more involved here, an outright linkup or partnership.
ERGEN: I think we want to link up with all content providers and be a form of distribution no matter who they are so that we can get their content to the American public, to provide choice for Americans and also get them at the very best price we possibly can. And, obviously, News Corp is a very large content company. It's somebody we certainly want to talk to.
CAVUTO: All right. Very quickly here, a few seconds left. There is talk that Rupert Murdoch just lying in the bushes there waiting to pounce because you're not going to get this. What do you say?
ERGEN: Well, there's no question that he is against this deal and is actively pulling out all the stops to try to stop this deal. And he's obviously very politically powerful with all the content and news programs that he has. But, obviously, we think that ultimately this is going to be decided by regulators, where they look at policy and look at the effect on consumers, and hopefully the politics stays out of this and we can decide this merger as a government on the merits. And when we do that, we'll be successful.
CAVUTO: All right. Charlie Ergen of EchoStar.
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