DISH Network reported a gain of 116,000 television subscribers in the third quarter of 2020. That was a loss of 57,000 satellite subscribers, offset by a gain of 205,000 Sling TV online subscribers. It ended the quarter with 8.96 million satellite subscribers, down by over half a million in a year. Sling TV subscribers were down by 226,000 in a year at 2.46 million. The chairman reiterated that a combination with DIRECTV was ultimately inevitable.
DISH Network reported a net increase of 116,000 television subscribers in the third quarter.
The reality is that satellite subscribers have seen a steady decline from around 14 million over 10 years to falling below 10 million at the end of 2018.
The company said it has reduced marketing spend during the coronavirus restrictions but is committed to acquiring or retaining long-term profitable customers, focusing on a more rural customer base.
Sling TV subscriber numbers have hovered around 2.4 million for a couple of years, reaching a peak of 2.69 million in the third quarter of 2019. A gain of 205,000 in the third quarter of 2020, driven primarily by a return of sports coverage, represents a recovery of some of the cumulative loss of 431,000 in the preceding three quarters.
Nevertheless, DISH Network reported revenue of $4.53 billion for the third quarter of 2020, compared to $3.17 billion for the corresponding period in 2019. Net income was $505 million, compared to $353 million for the same period a year before.
DISH Network completed the acquisition of the Boost Mobile business on 1 July, acquiring more than 9 million retail wireless subscribers. Retail wireless subscribers decreased by approximately 212,000 in the third quarter for a total of 9.42 million. It currently operates as a virtual network operator but is building a 5G broadband network.
Commenting on the market entry from T-Mobile that offers a similar service to Sling TV, Charlie Ergan, the chairman of DISH Network, told analysts: “obviously T-Mobile is a competitor of ours, obviously and their video services is aggressive and competitive”.
He restated that he believes a combination of DISH Network and DIRECTV “is inevitable”. He described their real competition as “the actual programmers themselves that we deal with”.
“They all have their own OTT product that they compete very well with what we do. It’s is in the consumers best interest that there be scale as alternative to that.” He suggested that was a consideration for regulators. “Make no mistake, whether it’s a year from now, or 10 years from now, I believe it’s inevitable those companies go together.”