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Dish/Amazon Discuss ‘Arrangements’; Analysts Cautious

12 Jul, 2017 By: Doug McPherson

SEATTLE – Reports have surfaced that Dish and Amazon are discussing potential arrangements as a way to take on incumbent service providers as well as cable companies that have begun to enter the wireless space.

Analysts speculate that Amazon could help fund Dish’s build out of the Internet of Things (IoT) network it’s considering, or that Dish could offer mobile services to Amazon Prime users for an additional fee.

But even though the partnership makes sense on many levels, analysts say they don’t expect the companies to marry any time soon.

Dish Network has tried for years to establish partnerships and deals with wireless providers like Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile, and with tech companies like Google. Now, insiders say speculation of a Dish partnership with a carrier is rising because Dish owns a large pile of mid-band airwaves and it has spent $6.2 billion on 486 licenses in the recent incentive auction of 600 MHz spectrum.

The clock is ticking for Dish to put its airwaves to use one way or another because of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) build out mandates, and in March the company announced plans to build a narrowband IoT network.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s ad-subsidized Blue Products R1 HD phone was a modest hit last year, and earlier this year it applied to the FCC for special temporary authority status to conduct tests using prototype equipment and spectrum frequencies including parts of the 700, 800, and 1900 MHz bands.

Kannan Venkateshwar of Barclays told FierceWireless he’d be surprised if Amazon decided to buy Dish outright instead of partnering in some other form. “An outright purchase would bring Amazon within the purview of the FCC, something internet companies would want to avoid for multiple reasons, in our opinion,” he said.

Independent tech analyst Jeff Kagan told S&P Global Market Intelligence that Dish has failed to pull the trigger on any major wireless deal. “I expected them to do a partnership with someone (by now), whether it was Verizon or CenturyLink or any of the wireless providers,” Kagan said. “A couple years have gone by and now we’re looking at them again and wondering what’s next for them. I don’t know for sure – I don’t think anybody does.”

Meanwhile, Dish has integrated Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled home assistant, to make it easier for viewers to find programming. 

Dish is airing two ads depicting how easy and seamless it is. Using the company’s “spokeslistener” character, one ad shows a family preparing for movie night, even when they can’t find the television remote. The second spot shows two elderly men using the voice control to find a sporting event without bickering over the remote’s complexity.

The campaign will run through the summer around the country on both national cable networks and in local markets.

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