Dish’s Charlie Ergen: “I think people are cutting the cord”

Cord cutting is real, argued Charlie Ergen, Chairman and co-founder of Dish Network (S DISH) at All Things Digital’s Dive into Media conference in Dana Point, California Monday. “think people are cutting the cord,” Ergen said, arguing that kids in college never use cable, and that they won’t suddenly start paying once they leave school. “There is a reason that tobacco companies give away free cigarettes at colleges,” he joked.

Ergen also reiterated his position that a la carte programming would be better for consumers, as well as the industry itself. “We are still for a la carte, because the Internet is a la carte today,” he said. People could just watch Netflix, (S NFLX) or even pirate content online, and service providers would have to compete with this new reality. “A lot of customers can live with Netflix and an… antenna, and YouTube…(S GOOG)  and they’d be pretty happy,” he said.

However, Ergen cautioned the audience at Dive into Media that a la carte won’t become a reality anytime soon. “It’s gonna go there slowly,” he said, arguing that the major broadcasters won’t break the bundle willingly. It would be more likely that the bundle would be broken by outside forces like Amazon (S AMZN) and Netflix.

Speaking of Netflix: Ergen was quite bullish when asked about the future of the video service. “I think they will be successful,” he said, adding that the launch of Netflix’s first original series House of Cards was “brilliant.”

He said that it would be possible for both Amazon and Netflix to succeed with their respective services – but it was quite clear that Ergen is rooting for Netflix: “I’m a fan,” he said, adding: “I feel stupid that we didn’t think of it first, but I’m a fan.”