DISH Network lost 196,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2017. That was not as bad as the same period a year previously and was less than the market anticipated. DISH lost 261,000 customers in twelve months, almost 2% of its subscriber base. It ended the first half of 2017 with 13.33 million television subscribers, including Sling TV customers, compared to 13.59 the year before. That means that the top ten service providers in the United States lost over three quarters of a million subscribers in the second quarter, which was less than some analysts forecast.

In the second quarter, DISH activated approximately 444,000 new subscribers, compared to 527,000 in the second quarter the previous year. The quarterly churn rate was 1.59%, compared to 1.96% a year before. However, a net loss of nearly 200,000 subscribers means that 640,000 customers left DISH in three months.

DISH Network subscriber change 2017 Q2. Source: informitv Multiscreen Index.

Average revenue per subscriber also fell slightly, from just under $90 a month to $87.25.

Online customers, while a lot cheaper to acquire than satellite subscribers, also tend to deliver lower revenues, although they are not necessarily less profitable.

Subscriber revenue fell to $3.61 billion, compared to $3.83 billion, with net income down to $40 million, compared to $424 million for the same quarter a year before, hit by a $280 million fine for breaking telemarketing regulations.

“We recognize that our core business is a mature, it’s a declining business,” acknowledged Charlie Ergen, the chief executive of Dish, with characteristic candour.

Even with more and more online television services in the market, DISH is still optimistic about its Sling TV offering, although the company does not break out subscriber numbers for the service. “My gut feel is that OTT is still in its infancy, and it’s going to see a lot of growth ahead, and Sling included,” he said.

With a stockpile of spectrum, and nearly $15 billion in debt, DISH appears to be playing a longer game, based on providing connectivity as much as content, but remains enigmatic about its strategy, possible partnerships or mergers. It looks like it is just waiting to be acquired.

The informitv Multiscreen Index tracks subscriber changes across 100 leading service providers worldwide.