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Dish Network lost 268,000 net pay TV subscribers in the fourth quarter, compared with a drop of 273,000 in the year-ago period and a gain of 30,000 in the third quarter of the year.
The latest quarter’s figures include subscriber drops for the traditional Dish pay TV service, as well as the Sling TV streaming service. The company disclosed in a regulatory filing early on Thursday that it lost around 77,000 Sling TV subscribers in the latest period, while recording a net decline of about 191,000 traditional satellite TV subscribers.
The company, led by CEO Erik Carlson and chairman Charlie Ergen, ended 2022 with 9.75 million total subscribers, down from 10.02 million as of the end of the third quarter on Sept. 30. That included 7.42 million Dish TV subscribers, down from 7.61 million as of the end of September, and 2.33 million Sling TV subscribers, down from 2.41 million as of September. It had wrapped the year 2021 with 10.71 million total users, including 8.22 million traditional satellite TV customers and 2.49 million Sling TV subscribers.
CEO Carlson, addressing Dish choosing to black out Cox Media Group TV stations across the U.S. market, said no early resolution of the dispute was likely. “We’re hoping for discussions for Cox,” Carlson told analysts during an afternoon conference call.
Dish chairman Ergen also weighed in on the stalled retransmission fee negotiations, as he argued subscribers that wanted Cox TV stations had likely left Dish. “So now it’s a tax when we put them back up,” he insisted.
During an analyst call that focused mostly on Dish’s planned 5G wireless network, Ergen conceded the company was “too early” in pricing in Jan. 2023 a $1.5 billion offering of 11.75 percent senior secured notes due 2027. That move was made for certainty by the end of last year to fund the pricey roll out of its emerging wireless infrastructure.
“We’re not suicidal. We’re not going to sacrifice the balance sheet for some short term gains,” Ergen added as he talked about Dish’s debt-driven road to deploying its 5G network. He also confirmed that Dish will reach 70 percent of the U.S. population with its wireless phone infrastructure by June 2023 to keep its spectrum licenses, and would not face steep fines for missing goals on its buildout requirements to launch a 5G network of its own.
Ergen also told analysts that Dish was well positioned to pivot from cable and satellite TV to telecommunications: “We understand satellites really well. We understand video really well and now we understand the future of telco within the same sister company.”
Dish’s retail wireless subscribers decreased by approximately 24,000 in the final quarter of 2022, compared to a net drop of 245,000 in the year-ago quarter. Dish ended 2022 with 7.98 million total retail wireless subscribers.
Dish’s fourth-quarter earnings, or net income, of $936 million marked a big gain compared with the $552 million the firm had recorded in the same period of 2021 and came in ahead of Wall Street expectations. Quarterly revenue fell from $4.45 billion to $4.04 billion and fell below analysts’ estimates.
For the full year 2022, Dish’s revenue of $16.68 billion was down from $17.88 billion in the year before. The company’s full-year earnings came in at $2.30 billion, down from $2.41 billion in 2021.
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