Video services

Dish Subs Back in Black, But for How Long?

Here's what's pushing cable's buttons this morning.

  • Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) added 22,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, beating estimates of a small 8,000 gain, and reversing the 156,000 customers it lost in the year-ago quarter. Dish, however, lost 166,000 subs for the full year, ending it with 13.96 million. It posted quarterly net income of US$313 million (70 cents per share) on revenues of $3.63 billion, up 13 percent. Dish handily beat Wall Street's expected fourth-quarter profit of 62 cents. The company is expected to launch its new broadband-connected, whole-home HD-DVR, the Hopper, in the current quarter. (See Dish Relaunches Itself With Hopper.)

  • Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett didn't see Dish's sub additions as a hugely upward trend for the company. He wonders if U.S. satellite TV has reached its exhaustion/maturation point, pointing out in a research note today Thursday that DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and Dish combined for 147,000 sub additions, down 2.1 percent versus a year-ago, representing growth that's "at its lowest level ever." Even with housing growth (or a decline in vacancy rates), he thinks cable, with its broadband advantage, is in a better position to benefit from that. "Either way, it appears clear that the satellite industry is entering a new phase. And it increasingly looks like subscriber growth won't be part of it."

  • Pace plc has secured a license to port TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO)'s UI to select set-top boxes and video gateways, and will start off with products tailored for cable MSOs in the Americas. Pace hasn't identified any customers for it, but Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which has tapped Pace for its QAM/IP hybrid X1 video gateway, does have a deal to deploy TiVo's UI and navigation system in tru2way boxes. Just sayin'. For now, some of TiVo's larger MSO customers include Charter Communications Inc. , RCN Corp. , Suddenlink Communications and Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED). (See Comcast IDs Cloud TV Product as 'X1' and TiVo Building tru2way Version of New Interface.)

  • Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) is mulling a bid for Ziggo B.V. , a Dutch MSO that could be worth as much as $10.6 billion and represent a deeper expansion for John Malone in Europe, reports De Telegraaf. Ziggo, however, is interested in going on the Amsterdam stock exchange by the end of March, the paper added.

  • On the financial front, Liberty Global posted a fourth-quarter loss of $435 million, or $1.58 per diluted share, on revenues of $2.40 billion, up 7 percent quarter-over-quarter. Liberty Global lost 307,000 video subs in 2011, narrowing 2010's losses by 18 percent. However, it added 1 million digital video customers in that period, alongside the addition of 765,000 broadband subs, and 734,000 phone customers. Liberty ended 2011 with 32.8 million revenue generating units (RGUs), which represent its mix of voice, video and data subscriptions.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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