Dish chairman Charlie Ergen today suggested that a merger with rival satellite provider DirectTV isn't out of the realm of possibility. During his company's quarterly earnings call, Ergen said, "there’s obviously a business case that [consolidation] makes a lot of sense in the satellite industry." Just don't expect a deal to fall into place tomorrow; Ergen quickly warned "whether it ever comes to fruition is another story." Still, he said that both his company and DirecTV "realize that it could make a lot of sense."

DirecTV's CEO isn't quite so sure

For his part, DirecTV CEO Michael White has expressed doubts about such a scenario playing out, suggesting that any deal could easily be derailed by government regulators. Last month, he cited the Justice Department's opposition to a merger between American Airlines and US Airways as evidence that current Washington sentiment would make it "very challenging for any deal to get done." Yet only earlier today, a preliminary settlement between the DOJ and those airlines was announced. Dish's Ergen considers that an encouraging sign. "You’re seeing on the government’s part that they do negotiate things," he said.

Ergen also touched on Dish's ongoing dispute with Disney, hinting that dropping ESPN and other Disney channels is a very real possibility if the two sides fail to reach a long-term deal. "You don’t marry everyone you date," he said. "I’m getting too old to do business with people we don’t have a good relationship with just to make a buck."