Dish Loses 341,000 Pay TV Subscribers in Third Quarter

Charlie Ergen
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Charlie Ergen pictured before a House Subcommittee hearing in December 2001.

The company lost 367,000 traditional satellite TV customers and added 26,000 Sling TV subscribers, citing a carriage dispute with Univision and increased competition.

Dish Network on Wednesday reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings, but lost 341,000 net pay TV subscribers in the period, citing a carriage dispute with Univision and increased competition.

The user loss exceeded Wall Street estimates of around 175,000 and compared with a year-ago subscriber gain of 16,000, or a decline of 129,000 subscribers when including that the firm had to remove users in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Hurricane Maria. The satellite TV company had lost 116,000 net pay TV subscribers in the third quarter of 2016. 

In the latest quarter, Dish lost 367,000 traditional pay TV subscribers, but added 26,000 Sling TV subscribers, citing "higher net Dish TV subscriber losses and fewer net Sling TV subscriber additions," saying subscriber momentum was "negatively impacted by Univision’s removal of certain of its channels from our Dish TV and Sling TV programming lineup," as well as "increased competition" for Sling TV, including from other streaming services.

"We experienced higher net pay-TV subscriber losses beginning in the third quarter 2018 and continuing into the fourth quarter 2018," said the company. "In light of, among other things, certain Univision programming being available to consumers through alternative methods, including over the air antennas and directly from Univision over the internet, the current state of our negotiations with Univision and the duration of the absence of these Univision channels from our programming lineups, this removal may be permanent."

On Nov. 1, Dish also said that AT&T had blacked out its HBO and Cinemax networks for Dish and Sling TV subscribers as the companies failed to agree on a new carriage deal.

Dish's total of 12.66 million subscribers at the end of September compared with 13.20 million at the end of the third quarter of 2017. The latest figure includes nearly 10.29 million traditional pay TV customers and 2.37 million subscribers of the Sling TV streaming service.

Third-quarter earnings of $432 million, or 82 cents per share, compared with $297 million, or 57 cents per share, in the year-ago period. The latest figures exceeded Wall Street expectations. Quarterly revenue fell 5 percent to $3.4 billion.

Dish is led by CEO Erik Carlson and chairman Charlie Ergen.