Dish pay-TV losses accelerate to 462,000 in Q1

Dish shares drop 19% as worse-than-expected pay-TV subscriber losses – 228,000 for satellite TV and 234,000 for Sling TV – roughly doubled the company's video losses from a year ago.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

May 6, 2022

3 Min Read
Dish pay-TV losses accelerate to 462,000 in Q1

Dish Networks' pay-TV business took it on the chin in Q1 2022, as both its legacy satellite TV service and Sling TV, its OTT-TV service, lost a bunch more customers than analysts were expecting.

Dish shed 462,000 total pay-TV subs in the quarter. Dish satellite TV lost 228,000, lowering its total to 7.99 million. Sling TV dropped 234,000 subs, lowering its total to 2.25 million. Dish ended the quarter with 10.24 million total pay-TV customers.

Figure 1: (Source: Jonathan Weiss/Alamy Stock Photo) (Source: Jonathan Weiss/Alamy Stock Photo)

The pay-TV customer losses were more than double the losses posted by Dish in the year-ago quarter. They were also more than double the 189,000 losses expected by analysts, according to MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett.

Dish's pay-TV base declined by 7.4% year-over-year, a "significant worsening for the third straight quarter," the analyst pointed out. "Dish lost more satellite TV subscribers than expected, and Sling utterly collapsed."

Moffett noted that Sling TV's base is now smaller than it was at the end of 2017, while Dish's satellite TV sub total is now dwarfed by the 14.3 million it had in its 2010 peak. "There was a time when Sling was to become the lifeboat for satellite TV. That lifeboat is taking on water," the analyst observed.

Figure 2: Click here for a larger version of this image. Chart used with permission. Click here for a larger version of this image. Chart used with permission.

Speaking on Friday's earnings call, Dish CEO Erik Carlson partly blamed the drop on customer attrition following the football season. "But the bottom line is we simply didn't execute to the level we expected," he said.

Dish also attributed some of the video losses to recent price hikes and a carriage dispute with Tegna, which was resolved in February.

Though 5G and wireless is the road Dish is taking to the future, the poor performance at Dish's legacy pay-TV business caused shares to drop $5.26 (-9.14%) to $22.22 each on Friday.

'Uncarrier'-like approach needed for pay-TV

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen suggested that Dish and programmers do a better job working together to improve the pay-TV proposition.

"We've never had better content in the United States than we do now," he said, noting that the heavy ad load for TV is the biggest source of frustration among video subs.

"We need a little more T-Mobile Uncarrier approach to consumers in the video business," Ergen said in a nod to T-Mobile's strategy to develop streamlined and friendly plans and pricing packages for consumers for mobile and, just this week, for its fixed wireless access service for home broadband.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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