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Dish Network reported that it lost about 67,000 net pay TV subscribers in the second quarter, compared with a decline of 96,000 in the year-ago period and a drop of 230,000 in the first quarter of 2021.
The latest quarter’s figures include subscribers to the traditional Dish pay TV service, as well as the Sling TV streaming service. The company detailed that it gained 65,000 Sling TV subscribers in the latest period, compared with a loss of 56,000 in the year-ago period. Dish also recorded a net decline of 132,000 satellite TV subscribers, compared with a drop of 40,000 in the second quarter of 2020.
The company, led by CEO Erik Carlson and chairman Charlie Ergen, ended June with 10.99 million total subscribers, including 8.55 million Dish TV subscribers and 2.44 million Sling TV subscribers.
Dish recently surprised Wall Street when it unveiled “a transformative, long-term strategic network services agreement with AT&T,” making “AT&T the primary network services partner for Dish mobile virtual network operator customers.” Wall Street has over the years often discussed the possibility of a different deal, namely a merger of Dish and AT&T’s pay TV businesses.
Ergen on an analyst call discussed the deal to make AT&T the primary network services partner for Dish’s mobile virtual network. “We’re both in the video business. Both parties realize there are things we can share that can be of benefit for both companies. We will make sure we remain frenemies with each other,” he said.
As to whether the AT&T deal on the MVNO side will increase the chances of a Dish merger with DirecTV or even AT&T proper down the line, Ergen reiterated that a combination of pay TV services was inevitable. “From a regulatory point of view, there’s less and less rejections to it. It’s a timing issue more than anything else,” he said.
Ergen added AT&T and Dish were likely to partner on the mobile phone front, rather than engage in a knock-down competitive fight for market share. “I understand that 30 years ago that probably sounded like me,” he said about business as a zero-sum game.
“I’m kinder and gentler now, as people around here know … I’m more experienced and more mature, let’s put it that way,” Ergen insisted.
AT&T management didn’t address the ongoing deal chatter, but CEO John Stankey said in late July that the deal was a chance to participate in Dish’s expected success and an opportunity to take revenue from a competitor, in this case T-Mobile, which used to be Dish’s partner. Dish likely felt “we could be a very capable and more capable partner,” Stankey said. Dish is going to be “successful, one way or another” and when a firm is doing well, “it is always nice for us to be successful along with them” in a financially accretive way.
Ergen also addressed Sinclair Broadcast Group issuing a press release on Aug. 9 that warns its broadcast TV stations and Tennis Channel are expected to be dropped by Dish as both companies hold crunch talks to renegotiate a retransmission agreement ahead of an Aug. 16 deadline, a move that could impact around 3.5 million subscribers.
“I’m disappointed that they put out a press release … We have until August 16. Many negotiations come down to the wire,” Ergen said.
“We have tried unsuccessfully to reach fair and customary terms with Dish Network for the renegotiation of our retransmission consent,” David Gibber, Sinclair’s general counsel, said in a statement on Monday.
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