Talk of a Dish Network and AT&T Merger Have Started Again — Who Owns Dish?

Dish Network was founded in 1995 by Charlie Ergen. Some of its more popular subsidiaries include Sling TV and Boost Mobile. Who owns Dish Network now?

Anuradha Garg - Author

Feb. 3 2023, Updated 10:41 a.m. ET

Dish Network customers
Source: Twitter/@dish

Dish Network may have started as a very successful company, but thanks to the change in consumers’ interest and new developments, its user count has steadily declined. Despite this, Dish Network is still around and providing multiple services to its customers, including AT&T internet. So, who owns Dish Network now?

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Dish Network has proposed a merger with its direct competitor, DIRECTV, which is now owned by AT&T, many times, though it keeps getting rejected. However, the two did take a step closer to teaming up in May 2022 after AT&T and Dish entered into a distribution agreement, thereby allowing Dish to offer multiple AT&T internet services. Given the back and forth between Dish and DIRECTV, it has become unclear as to who owns Dish. So, we decided to investigate.

Two friends watching TV.
Source: Dish Network

Two friends watching TV.

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Does AT&T own Dish Network?

Dish Network is a U.S.-based direct-broadcast satellite service provider. The company is based in Englewood, Colo. The company started operations on March 4, 1996, as a service of EchoStar. EchoStar was founded by Charlie Ergen, Candy Ergen, and Jim DeFranco in 1980. Charlie Ergen is the co-founder and chairman of Dish Network. He took Dish public in 1996. The company closed the third quarter of 2022 with 10.02 million pay-TV subscribers.

Dish Network is majority-owned by Charlie Ergen’s family through trusts. AT&T owns Dish Network's arch-rival, DIRECTV.

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Are DIRECTV and Dish Network owned by the same company?

AT&T bought DIRECTV in 2015 for $48.5 billion. It started DIRECTV Now in 2016 (rebranded to AT&T TV NOW), which is an over-the-top streaming service. The Ergen family owns more than half of Dish Network directly and through family trusts. The ownership includes all of the supervising Class B shares, which provide the family with nearly 90 percent voting rights.

Dish and DIRECTV are arch-rivals, for now at least. The satellite TV industry has been in a state of decline. Dish Network and DIRECTV have been losing subscribers. Both companies have been looking for ways to stay relevant and increase revenues. In 2002, Dish Network and DIRECTV proposed a merger, which was rejected by federal regulators on the grounds that it would create a monopoly in the satellite TV space.

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Despite regulators quashing the merger proposal, Charlie Ergen still thinks that merging Dish Network and DIRECTV is “inevitable.” However, the timing isn't clear. In August 2020, he said, “Is it one month from now or two years from now? I don’t know.” AT&T is also looking to offload DIRECTV to reduce its debt. The Department of Justice is still against the Dish-DIRECTV merger. AT&T is moving forward with the auction of DIRECTV without Dish’s involvement. 

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Dish Network app
Source: Twitter (@dish)

Is Dish Network a public company?

Dish Network is a public company. It trades on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "DISH." Dish Network has two classes of shares:

  • Class A: It is entitled to one vote per share
  • Class B: It is entitled to 10 votes per share

In 2020, Dish Network was ordered to build a 5G network with the capability of covering 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 2023. The alternative? Paying a fine of $2.2 billion. In June 2022, the company announced that it was offering 5G broadband service to over 20 percent of the U.S. population.

While building its own wireless 5G network, DISH has been able to use T-Mobile and Sprint’s combined 5G network. The project is expected to cost the company $10 billion.

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