Dish Lost 595,000 Pay-TV Subs in 2021, Sling TV Flat

Satellite TV operator Dish Feb. 24 disclosed it lost 595,000 pay-TV subscribers in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021, to end the fiscal period with 8.2 million subs, compared with 8.8 million at the end of 2020.

Dish’s online TV platform Sling TV ended the year with 2.48 million subs, up slightly from 2.47 million subs at the end of 2020. The pioneering platform, which was the first to offer ESPN outside the legacy pay-TV bundle when launching 2015, added just 12,000 subs in 2021.

Dish attributed the declines and market softness to the lack of consumer demand and channel removals, including Tegna (which carries NBC), as well as increased competitive pressures, including aggressive short-term introductory pricing and bundled offers combining broadband, video and/or wireless services and other discounted promotional offers, live-linear OTT service providers, and direct-to-consumer offerings by certain of our programmers.

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Dish competitors include Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Disney+, ESPN+, Paramount+, HBO Max, STARZ, Peacock,
FuboTV and Philo.

“We continue to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers,” Dish said a regulatory filing.

Dish Adds 117,000 Q3 Sling TV Subs, Down 42% From a Year Ago

Dish Nov. 4 said it added 117,000 Sling TV subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That compared with the addition of approximately 203,000 net Slings subs  during the same period in 2020. The decrease was primarily related to higher subscriber disconnects, partially offset by higher Sling subscriber activations.

“We continue to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers,” Dish said in a statement.

Dish, which is transitioning into wireless spectrum, broadband and telecommunications (Boost Mobile) businesses, ended the quarter with 10.9 million total pay-TV subs, including 8.4 million satellite customers and 2.5 million Sling subs. Dish has lost 541,000 pay-TV subs year-over-year.

Regardless, pay-TV revenue increased 9% in the quarter to $3.22 billion, from revenue of $3.19 billion a year ago. Operating income dropped 13% to $699 million, from $803 million in the previous-year period.

DirecTV to Officially Switch to ‘DirecTV Stream’ Aug. 26 as Dish Merger Scuttlebutt Grows

Satellite TV operator DirecTV beginning Aug. 26 will officially switch its brand name to DirecTV Stream. The distributor, which AT&T sold a controlling minority stake of to private equity group TPG Capital earlier this year, is looking to capitalize on the streaming video phenomena birthed by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, and now driven as well by Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ and online TV.

“AT&T satellite, streaming or IP video customers will automatically keep their video service, any bundled wireless, Internet or HBO Max services, and associated discounts with no action needed,” Bill Morrow, CEO of DirecTV, said in a statement.

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The newly branded DirecTV Stream will become the single brand for video streaming services previously launched by AT&T, with the exception of HBO Max.

Regardless of the name change, media chatter about a merger between satellite operators Dish Network and DirecTV continues to gain steam. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen contends that with AT&T unloading DirecTV to a private party, regulatory concerns about the two companies combining operations would appear to lessen.

“In terms of DirecTV and Dish, I mean obviously, I’ve said it the last year, I think that those two companies go together, that’s inevitable,” Ergen said on the most-recent fiscal call. “From a regulatory point of view, it is less objection to it because [of the] hundreds of billions of dollars of broadband deployment and continued competition from the programmers themselves in the marketplace.”

Both Dish and DirecTV have been hemorrhaging pay-TV subscribers for years as consumers migrate to over-the-top video alternatives. Dish saw its net sub base (including online platform Sling TV) dip below 10 million for the first time in the most recent quarter. AT&T pay-TV subs dropped 13% to 15.7 million.

“We’ll just have to wait and see whether there is a desire on their[TPG]  part to do that, but I think it’s a timing issue more than anything else,” Ergen said.

Dish Bows New $1.5 Billion Debt Offering

Dish Network has big plans in the wireless and telecom business. To help fund its way and pay off existing debt, the corporate parent of satellite pay-TV distribution and online TV platform Sling TV announced that on May 10, its subsidiary, Dish DBS Corp., priced a long-term debt offering of $1.5 billion.

Net proceeds of the bond sale are intended to be used for general corporate purposes, including refinancing of indebtedness. The offering is expected to close on May 24 subject to customary conditions.

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Last December, Dish issued $2 billion in long-term bonds, using the proceeds to for its nascent wireless spectrum business.

Sling TV in the first quarter of this year lost 100,000 subs, an improvement from a loss of 281,000 subs in the previous-year period. The platform ended the three-month period, which ended March 31, with 2.37 million subs, compared with 2.47 million subs at the end of 2020.

Sling TV Q3 Sub Growth Cools; Dish TV Sub Loss Increases

Dish Network Nov. 6 said it added 203,000 Sling TV subscribers during the three months ended Sept. 30, down 5.2% from the addition of 214,000 subs during the same period in 2019. This decrease in sub additions was primarily related to lower Sling TV activations, increased competition, including competition from other SVOD and live-linear OTT service providers, and delays and cancellations of sporting events as a result of COVID-19.

Dish ended the quarter with 2.46 million Sling TV subs, which is down 8.6% from 2.69 million subs a year ago.

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At the same time, Dish lost 87,000 legacy pay-TV subscribers, 32% more than a sub loss of 66,000 last year. This increase in subscriber losses primarily resulted from lower Dish subscriber activations, partially offset by a lower churn rate.

The Colorado-based satellite TV operator ended the period with just 8.96 million pay-TV subs, down almost 6% from 9.49 million subs the same time last year.

Dish Lost Record 413,000 Q1 Pay-TV Subs; Sling TV Down Too

Citing the ongoing coronavirus health care crisis, Dish Network May 7 said it lost a record 413,000 pay-TV subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31). That included 250,000 commercial accounts the satellite TV operator suspended due to a lack of sports programming and shuttered retail establishments. Dish lost 259,000 pay-TV subs in the previous-year quarter.

Meanwhile, Dish’s pioneering online TV platform, Sling TV, ended the quarter with 2.31 million subs — down from 2.42 million subs during the previous-year period. The company closed the quarter with 11.32 million pay-TV subs, including 9.01 million Dish subs.

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Net income attributable to Dish Network totaled $73 million for the quarter, compared with $340 million from the year-ago period.

“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,” Dish said in a statement.

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The distributor said the pandemic caused “severe disruption” in certain commercial segments, including the hospitality and airline industries — both virtually shut down since March.

CEO Charlie Ergen has called for a refund from Disney-owned ESPN due to a lack of live-sports programming, among other grievances.

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Private Equity Group Looking to Acquire DirecTV and Dish Network

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management is reportedly negotiating to acquire AT&T’s satellite TV service, DirecTV, along with competitor Dish Network.

The complicated transaction would enable AT&T to offload about $20 billion in debt, while maintaining control of the satellite service. It would also allow Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen to unload the company’s declining pay-TV business, according to Fox Business, which first reported the story based on information from sources familiar with the situation.

Ergen, who has recently moved the company’s focus toward wireless networks and 5G, has made no secret his desire to combine the two satellite businesses.

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AT&T, which acquired DirecTV in 2015 for $49 billion, also purchased Time Warner for $85 billion, sending its debt load into the stratosphere.

Apollo, which has about $250 billion in its asset portfolio, would provide financing for the deal in exchange for a minority stake in the combined entity. The firm specializes in leveraged buyout transactions and purchases of distressed securities involving corporate restructuring, special situations, and industry consolidations.  Its holdings include Caesars Entertainment Corporation, CareerBuilder,  ADT and Rackspace.

AT&T told Fox it has received the offer but that there were no active discussions at this time.

COO John Stankey, who is also CEO of WarnerMedia, last month reiterated AT&T’s support DirecTV and over-the-top video unit, AT&T TV Now.

“We’re constantly looking at the [business] portfolio,” Stankey told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s the normal course of business and it’s not unique to DirecTV.”

 

Dish Adds 48,000 Sling TV Subs in Q2

Dish Network may be getting into the wireless business, but in the meantime, it remains a pay-TV operator.

The company July 28 announced it added 48,000 net Sling TV subscribers in the second quarter ended June 30. That compared to a gain of 41,000 subs in the previous-year period.

Sling TV, which ushered in the standalone online TV market in 2015, ended the quarter with 2.47 million subs – up 128,000 subs from 2.34 million subs last year.

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“The increase in net Sling TV subs was primarily related to higher Sling TV sub activations, partially offset by increased competition, including competition from other OTT service providers,” Dish wrote in the fiscal filing.

Separately, Dish’s legacy satellite pay-TV service continues to lose customers. It lost 79,000 net subs, which was an improvement over 192,000 subs lost during the same period last year.

Dish ended the quarter with 12.03 million subs — down 965,000 subs from 12.99 million subs in the previous-year period.

The company has lost 290,000 satellite TV subs in the first six months of the 2019 fiscal year. That compared to a loss of 245,000 subs during the same period in 2018.

“The decrease in pay-TV subs resulted in fewer Dish TV subscriber losses and higher net Sling TV subscriber additions,” Dish wrote.

Regardless, the steady downward spiral in pay-TV subscribers contributed to a near 28% decline in Q2 net income at $317 million from $438 million last year.

Revenue declined 7.5% to $3.16 billion compared to revenue of 3.42 billion last year.

Dish Consolidates Satellite TV Holdings

Dish Network May 20 announced it is combining certain EchoStar operations and other assets that comprise the company’s satellite business, including nine direct broadcast satellites and the certain key employees responsible for operations.

The 22.9 million stock transaction, which includes select real estate properties, will be distributed to EchoStar shareholders.

Dish in 2017 acquired select EchoStar assets to better deliver linear pay-TV and online platform Sling TV to subscribers. Key broadcast satellite operations and services remained with EchoStar, which is also owned by Dish chairman Charlie Ergen.

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“This transaction brings those operations, including the BSS satellites, associated assets and key team members, in house and we expect those additions will create operational efficiencies and improve both free cash flow and pre-tax earnings,” Dish CEO Erik Carlson said in a statement.

The transaction is structured to be a tax-free exchange and is expected to close in the second half of 2019, subject to satisfaction or waiver of closing conditions.

Dish Widens Q1 Pay-TV Sub Loss as Sling TV Growth Cools

Dish Network May 3 reported it lost 266,000 pay-TV subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That compared to a loss of 185,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The nation’s fourth-largest pay-TV operator ended the period with 12 million subscribers — down almost 1.1 million subs from 13.1 millions subs last year.

The loss reflects ongoing secular changes in the pay-TV market as increasing numbers of consumers opt away from linear television toward over-the-top video products such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Now and Showtime OTT, among others.

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Separately, Dish’s pioneering online TV service, Sling TV, added just 7,000 subs in the period, compared to a gain of 91,000 subs last year. The standalone live streaming service ended the period with 2.41 million subs compared to 2.3 million subs last year.

Sling TV helped create an online TV market targeting cord-cutters and millennials that now includes PlayStation Vue, Spectrum TV Plus, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Hulu with Live TV, among others.

While subscriber growth declined, revenue per Sling customer increased. The increase was mainly driven by three factors: Customers taking higher priced packages, increased add-on revenue from extras, ad sales and cloud DVRs, and the $5 increase on the orange package implemented in the third quarter of 2018.

“Sling’s promotions have done well for us but we are focused on attracting profitable customers,” Warren Schlichting, EVP and group president, Sling TV, said on the fiscal call. “It’s a marathon not a sprint. We like where we are, we like our position in the market with our competitors taking their prices out that’s only improved ROI, and you’ll see more of the same, in the second quarter from us.”

Without Sling, Dish’s legacy satellite TV subscriber base would be about 9.6 million – down almost 4 million subs (30%) in the past five years.