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Dish Network suffers worst-ever quarterly subscriber losses

Dish Network suffers worst-ever quarterly subscriber losses

Dish Network logged its worst-ever quarterly loss of subscribers amid the coronavirus crisis, shedding 413,000 total pay-TV customers in the first quarter of the year.

The satellite TV giant closed the first quarter with 11.3 million pay-TV subscribers, down ‭6 percent over last year. That included a sequential decline of about 132,000 satellite subs to 9 million. It also recorded a net loss of 281,000 Sling TV subscribers, marking the acceleration of the streaming service’s erosion from the fourth-quarter of 2019.

Charlier Ergen’s Dish has been steadily losing subscribers, as consumers are cutting back on pay-TV services and opting to stream content instead, but the company blamed the pandemic on the unusually steep declines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused severe disruption in certain commercial segments served by Dish, including the hospitality and airline industries,” the company said Thursday. “We have faced, and could continue to face, fewer subscriber activations and increased subscriber churn rate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worsening of the global business and economic environment.”

As of March 31, Sling TV had 2.3 million customers, down 4.7 percent from last year, even as the service launched some free promotions during the pandemic to win new subscribers.

Net income attributable to Dish fell 79 percent to $73.1 million, or 13 cents a share, from $339.8 million. Excluding items, EPS was 55 cents. Revenue rose nearly 1 percent to $3.22 billion. Analysts were looking for EPS of 58 cents on revenue of $3.15 billion.

Currently, Dish is creating a wireless 5G network that is estimated to cost $10 billion. It has until 2023 to provide wireless coverage to 70 percent of the US population or it faces $2.2 billion in fines from the Federal Communications Commission.

Analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson, who has a “sell” rating on the company’s stock, said Dish has an uphill battle if it wants to succeed in building a wireless network, while stemming the losses from its TV unit.

“History tells us that it is difficult, and rarely advisable, to fight a war on multiple fronts. Dish is fighting a multiple-front war,” the analyst said. “It would be nice to imagine that the satellite TV business won’t matter for Dish’s wireless business…but the COVID-19 crisis gives all this a wartime feel, as there is a new urgency for all businesses.”

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