DISH Network recently released their fourth-quarter results, and they came in pretty much as predicted. Yes, the company reported a net gain in Sling TV subscribers, but they also reported a significant loss of overall customers. As a result, DISH saw their stock fall by about 7% following this announcement.
The cord-cutting trend has been taking a toll on traditional broadcasting companies like DISH Network for years. To combat that trend, DISH released its own streaming service, Sling TV, which has been doing quite well since its launch in 2015. That service continues to grow. According to their fourth quarter numbers DISH grew their Sling service by approximately 47,000 subscribers. While that is certainly a win, it is not enough to offset the customer loss DISH is experiencing.
All told, DISH lost a record-setting 381,000 satellite subscribers during the fourth quarter of 2018. While some subscriber loss was expected, no one expected losses of that size. Most people agree that this accelerated subscriber loss can be directly tied to the HBO and Univision channel blackouts that have been plaguing DISH for months. That subscriber loss will probably continue to accelerate as long as HBO remains blacked out. Particularly as the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones approaches.
“Univision’s removal of certain of its channels from our programming lineup will continue to negatively impact our Dish TV churn rate, net Dish TV subscriber losses, gross new Dish TV subscriber activations and net Sling TV subscriber additions in the short-term,” Dish said in a 10-K filing. “However, over the long term, we anticipate that we will be able to provide more compelling offers to our subscribers, particularly containing Latino programming because of, among other things, our ability to provide more flexible and lower cost programming and because certain Univision programming is also available through alternative methods including over the air antennas and directly from Univision over the Internet.”
All told, DISH lost 1.125 million satellite subscribers in 2018 and gained 205,000 Sling TV subscribers over that same time period.
Yes, DISH is losing traditional satellite subscribers, but it’s clear that DISH understand that its future does not lie in satellite services. The future of DISH hinges on their Spectrum holdings and their Sling TV service. Spectrum is still DISH’s most valuable asset, they just need to find a way to translate that into a service before the FCC deadline.