Most of Dish Network’s 14 million subscribers are probably not Bitcoin users. But that will not stop the company from accepting payments in the virtual currency later this year.
Dish announced on Thursday that customers would be able to make manual payments in Bitcoin beginning in the third quarter. And while Dish may not be the first company to accept Bitcoin, it claims to be the largest — though the appeal of the payment option is still unclear.
“We don’t know what the demand will be, exactly,” Bernie Han, Dish’s chief operating officer, said in an interview on Thursday. “It might be tiny. It might be bigger than tiny. It’s probably growing.”
In fact, Bitcoin’s biggest appeal may be its ability to attract new customers. As enthusiasts try to push virtual currency further into the mainstream, digital money may offer companies cutting-edge appeal.
“Accepting Bitcoin is about all these things — marketing, branding and acquiring new types of customers,” said Gil Luria, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “I don’t think there are a lot of customers asking Dish for Bitcoin by name, but that doesn’t mean Dish won’t get some new customers now that they accept Bitcoin because those customers see Dish as a friendlier, more forward-thinking brand.”
Retailers like Overstock.com and Virgin America already accept virtual currency, helped by new services that aim to make digital money easier to use.