Dish Network Corp. chairman Charlie Ergen recently contacted DirecTV chief executive Mike White to discuss a merger of the two satellite television companies, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.
Shares of both companies rose.
Ergen made the approach in response to Comcast Corp.'s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. in mid-February, one of the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. White is reluctant to push forward with formal talks out of concern regulators may block the deal because the two companies directly compete with each other, another person said.
Although White is hesitant to pursue a deal, he hasn't ruled it out entirely, one person said. The talks are being conducted at a senior level with no official process yet under way, several people said.
DirecTV is the largest U.S. satellite-television operator with about 20 million paying subscribers. Dish is No. 2 with about 14 million subscribers.
Shares of DirecTV rose almost 7 percent to $78.13, giving the company a market value of about $40 billion as of 1:37 p.m. in New York. Dish also gained almost 7 percent, to $62.23, giving it a market value of about $29 billion.
DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri declined to comment as did Dish spokesman Bob Toevs.