DISH Network lost a record 381,000 satellite television subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2018 and gained 47,000 Sling TV customers. Some of the losses may be the result of continuing carriage disputes with HBO and Univision, but DISH is losing satellite subscribers faster than it is gaining online video customers, with a net loss of 922,000 in 2018.
DISH Network ended 2018 with 12.32 million pay television subscribers, including 9.90 million DISH TV subscribers and 2.42 million Sling TV subscribers.
Combined pay television subscribers fell by 334,000, compared to 39,000 net additions in the same quarter the previous year.
In the course of 2018, DISH Network lost 1.13 million satellite subscribers. Over the same period, it gained 205,000 Sling TV subscribers.
So in simple terms, DISH is losing satellite subscribers more than it is gaining online video customers.
It is not simply a case of subscribers leaving the satellite platform. The gross number of subscriber additions has fallen, from 1.48 million in 2017 to 1.11 million in 2018. Back in 2014, DISH TV signed up 2.56 million subscribers. The net result is that subscriber numbers have been steadily falling.
Subscriber numbers were affected by continuing carriage disputes with Univision, HBO and Cinemax, with further losses expected.
HBO and Cinemax are now owned by AT&T, which also operates DIRECTV, a competitor to DISH Network.
DIRECTV lost 403,000 satellite subscribers in the United States in the fourth quarter and a total of 1.24 million over 2018.
Between them, DISH Network and DIRECT TV lost 2.36 million satellite television subscribers between them in the United States in 2018, according to the informitv Multiscreen Index.
“AT&T has taken a very anti-competitive approach to carriage because they view DISH potentially as one of their larger competitors,” Charlie Ergan, the co-founder and chairman of DISH told analysts.
That is disputed by HBO, which says it had hoped that DISH subscribers would have uninterrupted access to its services.
DISH revenue was $3.31 billion for the fourth quarter of 2018, compared to $3.84 billion in the corresponding quarter the previous year.
For 2018, DISH reported revenue of $13.62 million, compared to $14.39 billion the previous year.
Average revenue per pay television user was $85.46 per month, similar to the previous year.
The DISH chairman said that while the company has moved into online video delivery with Sling TV, there are people in rural America that do not have adequate broadband.
“There are people that love the fact that the viewing experience on a DISH network system,” he said. He also said that satellite could reach people with trucks or recreational vehicles.
That said, DISH does seem to be investing in areas like 5G, which could complement its satellite delivery. It has invested over $21 billion in wireless.