The coronavirus outbreak eased the pace of cord-cutting at Dish Network in the second quarter of 2020, but the company continued to bleed subscribers on both its satellite TV and Sling TV internet services. Dish exceeded Wall Street financial forecasts, but warned that the COVID-19 crisis could cause further erosion in its pay-TV subscriber base.
Meanwhile, Dish said that during Q2 it conducted “a focused set of staffing reductions to align our workforce to best serve our pay-TV customers,” but did not reveal the extent of the layoffs. The company cited “the current economic climate, combined with changing needs of our customers and how we can best serve them” as the reason for the job cuts in its 10-Q filing Friday with the SEC.
Dish dropped a net 96,000 TV customers in the June 2020 quarter. On the satellite side, Dish TV shed about 40,000 subs in Q2, a slower decline versus a drop of 79,000 in the year-ago quarter. But Sling TV, once seen as offsetting losses in Dish’s satellite business, fared worse: Sling lost 56,000 customers in the second quarter, compared with a net increase of 48,000 in Q2 2019.
Overall, Dish’s pay-TV base shrank 6.3% year-over-year. The company ended the quarter with 11.27 pay-TV subscribers, comprising 9.02 million Dish TV subscribers and 2.25 million Sling TV subscribers.
On the satellite TV side of the house, the Q2 churn rate was 1.14% compared with 1.48% for the same period in 2019. That was primarily the result of “the positive impact of COVID-19, including, among other things, the recommendations and/or mandates from federal, state, and local authorities that customers refrain from non-essential movements outside of their homes and the resulting increased consumption of our pay-TV services,” Dish said in its 10-Q filing Friday.
In addition, according to Dish, “COVID-19 had a positive impact on competitive pressures due to, among other things, a reduction in customers’ willingness to allow competitors’ technicians into their homes and delays and cancellations of sporting events that reduced the attractiveness of competitors’ promotional offers and services.”
The company cautioned, however, that COVID-19 going forward could hurt the pay-TV business because of “higher unemployment and lower discretionary spending and reduced ability to perform our in-home service operations due to the impact of social distancing.”
“[G]iven the dynamic nature of this situation, we cannot reasonably estimate the impacts of COVID-19 on our financial condition and results of operations,” Dish said in the 10-Q.
Dish’s total Q2 revenue was $3.19 billion, down slightly from $3.21 billion in the year-ago period, with net income rising 43% to $452 million (or 78 cents per share). That beat Wall Street analyst consensus estimates of revenue of $3.1 billion and EPS of 58 cents, per Refinitiv.
While COVID-19 overall slowed down pay-TV cancellations, according to Dish, the pandemic has caused “significant disruption in certain commercial segments” across the company’s customer base, including in the hospitality and airline industries.
In Q1, at the front end of the pandemic’s spread in the U.S., Dish said, it had “paused service or provided temporary rate relief” for about 250,000 commercial accounts and removed those from its pay-TV subscriber count as of March 31. In Q2, 45,000 of those subscribers resumed normal service, which were added to the June 30 subscriber count (without being recorded as new subscribers during the quarter). As a result, Dish TV’s total subscriber count as of June 30 actually increased by 5,000 subscribers compared with March 31.