Dish posts higher Q4 profit but loses subs

Sibling EchoStar records loss for the quarter

Dish lost 102,000 subscribers during the fourth quarter of 2008, its biggest quarterly loss of subs ever, but the company did better than corporate sibling EchoStar Communications.

Both companies reported fourth-quarter earnings Monday. Dish earned $217 million, up 24% from the year-ago frame, on revenue that grew 1% to $2.9 billion.

EchoStar, though, lost $690 million, compared with a year-earlier loss of $45 million, in large part because of the falling value of investments. The company took a $247 million impairment charge related to its purchase of Sling Media. EchoStar's revenue rose 37% to $496 million.

Charles Ergen, CEO of both companies, said his goal for Dish in 2008 was "to stop getting worse," but he was more hopeful about this year.

"It's just easier to manage a company when you are trying to get better than when you are trying to stop getting worse," he told analysts during a conference call.

Ergen added that a high-profile investment in Sirius XM Radio was "a financial opportunity, first and foremost."

After Ergen invested in Sirius XM debt, the satellite radio firm sold a chunk of itself to Liberty Media, which controls Dish competitor DirecTV.

Shares of Dish and EchoStar were hammered Monday along with the rest of the market, with the former falling 12% to $9.93 and the latter dropping 9% to $14.94.

Dish said it closed 2008 with 13.7 million subscribers, having lost more than 100,000 subscribers during the year.