Dish Network Feb. 19 disclosed that its online TV platform — Sling TV — lost 94,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019. That compared to a gain of 47,000 subs in the previous-year period. It was the online TV platform’s first subscriber loss ever.
Sling TV, which ushered in the standalone online pay-TV market in 2015, ended the fiscal period with 2.59 million subs, up from 2.42 million subs a year ago. At the same time, online TV continues to stagnate as an antidote to subscription video-on-demand and ad-supported VOD.
High-profile YouTube TV just topped 2 million subs, while Disney-owned Hulu with Live TV recently surpassed Sling with 2.7 million subs. Sony’s PlayStation Vue shuttered with reportedly about 500,000 subs.
Meanwhile, Dish’s legacy satellite TV operations finished the year with almost 9.4 million subs — down more than 500,000 subs from the end of 2018. For the quarter, Dish lost a combined 194,000 subs when combined with Sling. That was a significant improvement from the 334,000 combined subs lost in the previous-year quarter.
Regardless, 2020 finds Dish focusing on a new business: a nationwide 5G wireless network. As part of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, Dish established an agreement with the Department of Justice mandating it would provide nationwide 5G wireless coverage from 20% to 70% of the country’s population based on each of four spectrum bands.
Since 2008, Dish says it has invested more than $11 billion acquiring wireless spectrum licenses and related assets. These licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements, as well as renewal requirements with the federal government.