Dish Network will begin letting its subscribers pay their bills with bitcoins later this year, the company said on Thursday.
The satellite TV giant will be the first subscription pay-TV provider to make the move and one of the biggest companies to begin accepting the currency to date. Other companies that currently accept bitcoin include mobile gaming company Zynga and dating web site OkCupid.
"We always want to deliver choice and convenience for our customers and that includes the method they use to pay their bills," said Bernie Han, exec VP and chief operating officer at Dish Network. "Bitcoin is becoming a preferred way for some people to transact and we want to accommodate those individuals."
For Dish Network, there's no real cost associated with using bitcoin, said Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program. In fact, it could even save the company some fees associated with credit card payments. Those fees can range from about 3% to 5% compared with just about 1% for bitcoin, Mr. Brito said.
Bitcoins are a bit of a mystery to much of the world, with questions about the stability of the electronic currency, how widely it will be accepted, what it means for a currency to have no individual government's backing and how countries around the world will regulate it.
Earlier this year, it emerged that a Japanese bitcoin exchange called Mt. Gox wasn't able to account for bitcoins in its care worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
While bitcoin adoption seems to be growing, it's still more or less a curiosity among most consumers. Mr. Brito said it's currently a "chicken and egg" situation. "Until more merchants accept bitcoin there's little reason for consumers to use it," he said, and until consumers adopt bitcoin there's little reason for merchants to jump on.
Mr. Brito said Dish will help push things forward and that it is likely an experiment for the company that will get a lot of attention. He added that he doesn't expect a company like Amazon to come to the market soon accepting bitcoin as payment.
Dish will begin accepting bitcoin in the third quarter for subscribers making one-time payments online and will use Coinbase as its payment processor.