Carriage fight with Fox causes drop

A carriage fight with Fox claimed another victim Thursday: Satcaster Dish Network said it lost 156,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, in large part because customers dropped the service following the blackout of Fox Sports cablers and other Fox-owned outlets in October.

Last week, Cablevision reported that it lost about 35,000 subs in the quarter due to a retrans fight that resulted in a two-week blackout of Fox’s New York stations.

Carriage fights “are not easy on any of us,” said Dish exec veep Tom Cullen. “But we were willing to take the short-term impact” to reach more favorable terms eventually, he said.

The sub losses didn’t seem to hurt Dish’s financials, however. Revenues in the quarter ended Dec. 31 rose 8% to $3.2 billion, and net profits soared 41% to $252 million, the company reported. For the full year, revs were up 8% to $12.6 billion, and profits increased 55% to $985 million. Dish ended the year with 14.1 million subscribers.CEO Charlie Ergen acknowledged that the new $5 across-the-board price increase on Dish packages may be a risk but added that Dish customers will stay be paying as much as 20% less than subscribers to Dish competitors. He said Dish would take a “rifle approach and not a shotgun approach” in trying to lure new subs.

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