Media Money with Julia Boorstin

Dish's chairman: Buying T-Mobile is still on the table

Dish's Ergen not ruling out T-Mobile acquisition
Dish's Ergen not ruling out T-Mobile acquisition

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen made headlines when he answered a slew of questions on the company's earnings call. He said consolidation in both the cable and satellite TV industry makes a lot of sense and noted that the idea of Dish buying T-Mobile is still on the table.

His comments, along with better-than-expected quarterly results, pushed the stock 6 percent higher before the closing bell.

"I don't ever rule out anything. I think acquiring a company, selling our company, merging, partnering—those are all on the table," he said.

Charlie Ergen
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This comes after Dish's effort to acquire T-Mobile's larger rival, Sprint, fell though earlier this year.

Ergen says there's no question that Dish's core business—pay TV—is mature, and his vision calls for transforming the company by using the spectrum it's acquired to transmit mobile video. Because a mobile network is key to that vision, a deal with T-Mobile could take the form of a partnership if an acquisition doesn't work out.

Of course Dish has the ability to sell the spectrum it's acquired, but Ergen says, "After 33 years of building the DISH network, it doesn't make sense to build a business model and not do it in such a way that you're enhancing what we've been building."

(Read more: T-Mobile owner hails 'massive' US turnaround)

Mobile video is Ergen's main focus—it takes a lot of capacity, and no one else has been focusing on it. And if one member of a household wants to stream one movie on Netflix, and another family member wants to stream something else, it's going to take a lot of spectrum, and Dish is well-positioned for that scenario.

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"You're watching something unique to you, on a smart device. It knows who you are, who you call, it has your credit card information, it knows physically where you are through GPS. Once it's smart, the advertising opportunity is really magnified," he said.

Dish-Disney deal

Dish and Disney have been locked in negotiations to renew their contract since the last one expired on Sept. 30. Surprisingly, Ergen says he's willing for Dish to skip carrying Disney/ABC's programming altogether, which would be a dramatic first in the pay TV industry.

"Disney has not historically been one of our best relationships, which is probably my fault. We could go forward without a relationship with Disney," Ergen said. He said it would be bad over the short term but could pay off in the long haul.

"You don't marry every girl you date… Disney's a very pretty girl," he quipped, saying they'd like to make Disney their best relationship, but if they can't have a good relationship "both companies will do fine, move on."

Unlike the Time Warner Cable-CBS clash, which led to a monthlong blackout, these two media giants have agreed to keep their programming on the air during negotiations. Ergen said Dish and Disney both want to avoid going back to the negotiating table to hash out new terms when a new innovation is introduced a few years down the line.

He echoed Disney CEO Bob Iger, saying he's "cautiously optimistic we'll get a deal done." While he said "there are always economic issues," the Disney deal is distinguished by the fact that the conflict is all about digital rights.

"Disney contracts are generally long in nature," Ergen said, adding "this deal is looking at where technology is going. Disney, it turns out, is [further] along in the technology curve."

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As for the big picture of negotiations with content companies, he calls retransmission "a broken process, now the broadcaster has all the leverage."

Dish's controversial 'Hopper'

With lawsuits over Dish's ad-skipping technology employed in 'The Hopper' Ergen says it's really all an overreaction, and Dish is actually on broadcasters side—helping them deal with the changing times.

"You have to understand the world has changed, you can put your head in the sand or do something about it," he said.

He said the Hopper has technology to target ads. "I think it will give the broadcaster more long-term revenue," and help them maintain their dual revenue stream of retrans fees and ads.

Ergen on Aereo

On reports that Dish is in talks with Aereo, the controversial streaming video service that offers live TV without paying broadcasters retransmission fees, Ergen said "We think Aereo is a great product, technological innovation, but we'd rather work with our current content partners."

He says If the media companies are willing to offer a similar streaming video product, Dish is willing to pay their retransmission fees. But he warned. "If broadcasters decide that's not something they want to do, I think we will see Aereo become very successful," indicating that a partnership could be in order.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin.