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DirecTV Gains 149,000 U.S. Subs in Q4, Helped by ‘Competitor Programming Disputes’

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DirecTV added a net 149,000 subscribers in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2014 — after dropping a net 62,000 customers the two previous quarters — which it said was in part due to “competitor programming disputes” in the period.

DirecTV didn’t identify which pay-TV rival or rivals it was referring to. But in Q4, Dish Network had two major standoffs that surely spurred some customers to bail: In a fight with Turner Broadcasting, Dish subs lost CNN and seven other networks for about one month, followed by a showdown with CBS in December that resulted in the Eye’s local stations briefly winking off the dial.

For DirecTV, other factors that boosted U.S. subscriber gains in Q4 included a new ad campaign — featuring Rob Lowe — enhanced promotions and wider distribution in consumer-electronics channels, such as Costco and Walmart, the company said. The satcaster also had lower subscriber churn rate (1.37% versus 1.41% a year earlier), because of “improved retention practices, as well as more successful winback offers.”

DirecTV’s total Q4 revenue was $8.92 billion, up 4% and in-line with analyst expectations, with net income of $778 million, or $1.53 per share, handily beating Wall Street forecasts of $1.39 per share. Top-line growth was driven by higher average monthly revenue per customer in the U.S.: In Q4, that was $117.30, an increase of 5% from the year-earlier period.

The company ended 2014 with 20.352 million U.S. subscribers, up a net 99,000 for the year. The satcaster posted solid growth in its Latin America markets, adding 1.4 million net new customers and topping 19 million cumulative subscribers by year-end.

El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV is in the process of being acquired by AT&T, a deal pending regulatory review.