- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Joe Clayton, the incoming chief executive of Dish Network Corp., said Thursday that more acquisitions are on the horizon as the satellite TV provider pieces together a “new video model” to compete with other pay TV operators and rising stars such as Netflix Inc.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Clayton said that recent acquisitions provided the framework for a model that will transform Dish’s video delivery business. Last month, Dish bought Blockbuster Inc., a video rental chain that filed for bankruptcy protection. In February, Dish agreed to buy Hughes Communications Inc., a provider of Internet access through satellites, and DBSD North America Inc., which provides both satellite and land-based communications services. DBSD was also bought out of bankruptcy.

“We put the straight pieces of the puzzle together on the edges, now we’re filling in the middle,” Clayton said by phone from Dish’s headquarters in Englewood, Colo. He made several references to buying companies to complement either Blockbuster or make use of DBSD’s wireless spectrum.

“The basic building blocks are in place to add additional ones on top of it for, like I said, a landscaping change in the industry,” he said.

Clayton, 61, was named CEO on Monday and is set to take the reins from the company’s majority owner, Charlie Ergen, in June. Clayton said he will take over the day-to-day management of Dish while Ergen focuses on the strategic direction of the company. Ergen will remain Dish’s chairman.

In a sign it is integrating its new assets, Dish announced Thursday that new subscribers would receive a free trial of mail-order disc service Blockbuster By Mail for three months.

But Clayton reiterated that Dish’s complete strategy was not yet clear, saying “I don’t have it all figured out yet.”

His comments came two weeks after Ergen surprised analysts by comparing Dish’s acquisition strategy to a “Seinfeld” episode, “where you didn’t know exactly where that show was going but it seemed to all come together in that last couple of minutes.”

In a research note, Collins Stewart analyst Thomas Eagan responded, “Wait a minute, didn’t the Seinfeld characters wind up in jail?”

Part of the management change was meant to free Ergen up from daily worries and pull together the company’s overall strategy.

Clayton said Dish had not given up on plans to challenge Netflix in the business of streaming video over the Internet.

“If I were them, I’d be watching what’s going on,” he said. “I’d stay tuned. Because no one’s going to have a monopoly on this and I’m sure it’s not just our company that’s looking at trying to take a small piece of the pie from Netflix.”

Clayton has a long history in the satellite business, helping launch DirecTV when he worked for General Electric Co. subsidiary RCA. It was at RCA that he met Ergen, who was then an RCA hardware distributor. Clayton later went on to be CEO of satellite radio company Sirius, where he signed Howard Stern and helped form Sirius XM Radio Inc. through a merger. He served as Sirius chairman until 2008. He joined the board of Dish’s sister company, EchoStar Corp. in 2008.