Dish Narrows TV Subscriber Loss in Q4 but Drops Sling TV Customers For the First Time

Dish Network continued to feel the cord-cutting sting in the fourth quarter of 2019: While its total subscriber losses in the period were not as bad as the year earlier, the company dropped 94,000 Sling TV over-the-top customers — the first time its OTT service lost subscribers since launching in 2015.

Dish’s net pay-TV subscribers decreased by 194,000 in Q4, compared with a net decrease of 334,000 in the year-ago quarter. That included a 100,000 drop on the satellite TV side (to 9.394 million total at year-end) and the decline in Sling TV customers, to 2.592 million.

The sequential decline in Sling TV subs — which the company has positioned as a lower-cost model designed to offset the steadily eroding satellite TV biz — comes after Dish announced a 20% price hike for Sling TV’s Blue and Orange packages, to $30 per month, in December. The company also dropped the Fox sports regional networks from Dish TV and Sling TV last July, before the RSNs were acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Dish beat Wall Street earnings expectations, posting revenue of $3.24 billion (down 2.1% year over year) and net income of $389 million (up from $337 million in the year-ago quarter).

In addition to competition from rival cable and satellite TV operators, “We also face increasing competition from content providers and other companies who distribute video directly to consumers over the internet,” Dish said in its 10-K filing Wednesday. The company cited a laundry list of OTT services including those from Netflix, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, Disney, Verizon, AT&T, ViacomCBS, Starz, FuboTV and Philo. Dish also noted that as of October 2018, both Dish TV and Sling TV have been without HBO and Cinemax channels, “as we and AT&T have been unable to negotiate the terms and conditions of a new programming carriage contract.”

Thanks to price hikes, Dish’s average monthly revenue per pay-TV subscriber in Q4 increased to $87.02 (up from $85.55 a year earlier). Pay-TV churn rate in the period was 1.56%, and improvement over 2.07% in Q4 2018.

Meanwhile, Dish is set to become the fourth wireless player in the U.S. market pending the final closing of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, which beat a court challenge from state attorneys general last week.

Under Dish’s $5 billion deal with T-Mobile and Sprint, the satellite TV operator will acquire Sprint’s prepaid wireless businesses including Boost Mobile along with spectrum in the 800-MHz band and will enter into a seven-year mobile virtual network operator agreement with the new T-Mobile. That was required as a condition of the DOJ’s approval of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, on the theory that it will establish Dish as a fourth competitor in the U.S. wireless market.

Under FCC build-out requirements, Dish has committed to offer 5G broadband service to at least 70% of the U.S. population by June 14, 2023, with respect to its 600-MHz and AWS H Block spectrum licenses, along with rollout commitments for other spectrum holdings. Since 2008, Dish says, it has directly invested over $11 billion to acquire wireless spectrum licenses and has made over $10 billion in non-controlling investments in certain wireless entities.

More Biz

  • Dodgers Stadium Empty

    Movie Theaters and Concerts Could See Major Attendance Drop Post-Pandemic (Study)

    After a month of increasing anxiety and self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, audiences in the U.S. are largely not eager to return to public events once the crisis subsides, according to a new study. In a survey of 1,000 consumers in the U.S., 44% of respondents said they would attend fewer large public events, [...]

  • Carl Cox attends at press conference

    Beatport’s 34-Hour DJ Livestream, With Carl Cox, Pete Tong, More, Raises $180,000

    Beatport today announced that its 34-hour live stream “ReConnect,” held in partnership with Twitch, raised more than $180,000 for the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and the Association for Electronic Music members’ COVID-19 Hardship Fund. Set up specifically to administer donations from this event to help struggling AFEM member companies retain lower earning workers who [...]

  • U.K. Distributors Take Concrete Steps to

    U.K. Distributors Take Steps to Support Independent Cinemas Amid Coronavirus

    U.K. cinemas remain shuttered due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and while some of the large chains with deep pockets have the wherewithal to ride out the crisis, independent cinemas are suffering. Some U.K. distributors have come up with solutions to remedy this. Modern Films was due to release Haifaa Al-Mansour’s festival favorite “The Perfect [...]

  • HOOQ Demise Damages The Business Case

    Hooq May Have Fallen But a Business Case for Southeast Asian Streamers Endures

    With coronavirus lockdowns across the region causing a spike in stay-at-home viewing, Friday’s news that Southeast Asian video streamer Hooq is to close within a matter of days came as a shock to its friends and competitors alike. Compared with its regional rivals, Hooq had the most blue-chip backers in Singaporean telecoms giant Singtel, WarnerMedia [...]

  • Helen Hunt World on Fire

    What's in a Name? How U.S. Talent Buoys International Sales on European Drama

    While European actors have long been mainstays on American television, recent years have seen American stars gaining traction as the leads in international productions. Sandra Oh’s award-winning turn in “Killing Eve,” Carrie Anne Moss in “Wisting,” Anna Paquin in “Flack” and Rob Lowe in “Wild Bill” are just a few examples of familiar Hollywood faces [...]

  • U.K. Freelancers

    U.K. Government Faces Pressure From Industry on Economic Measures for Freelancers

    The U.K. government is facing increasing pressure from the creative industries after it emerged that economic measures set out for the self-employed last week by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have yawning gaps in them. The measures may have come as a welcome move for many creative industries workers, but not all are eligible [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content