Dish Network’s core satellite distribution business continued to see precipitous drops in subscriber totals during the fourth quarter, offset slightly by growth at Sling TV.
The company reported a net loss of 334,000 pay TV subscribers (compared to net additions of 39,000 one year ago), which factors out to 381,000 satellite subscribers lost and 47,000 new Sling TV subscribers. The company finished out the quarter with 12.32 million total pay TV subscribers, including 9.90 million Dish TV subscribers and 2.42 million Sling TV subscribers.
Dish’s total satellite subscriber losses during the quarter came close to equaling those of competitor DirecTV, which lost 391,000 subscribers (combined with AT&T U-verse). But AT&T also competes directly with Sling TV through DirecTV Now, which lost 267,000 subscribers last quarter.
As Dish Network’s subscriber base declines so too do its earnings. The company reported fourth-quarter revenue of $3.31 billion, down from $3.48 billion in the year-ago quarter.
Net income attributable to Dish Network fell substantially to $337 million for the fourth quarter, compared to $1.39 billion from the year-ago quarter. But that difference was largely due to fourth-quarter 2017 net income being positively impacted by an income tax benefit of approximately $1.2 billion due to an adjustment to deferred tax assets and liabilities related to tax reform legislation.
For the full year, Dish reported revenue of $13.62 billion, compared to $14.39 billion in 2017, a decline largely attributed to subscriber revenue falling from $14.26 billion to $13.46 billion.
As Dish’s pay TV subscriber base breakdown shifts toward fewer high-value satellite customers and more lower-value streaming TV subscribers, the company's average revenue per user (ARPU) is declining. For the full year, Dish’s ARPU came in at $85.46 versus $86.43 in 2017. But Dish TV's average monthly subscriber churn for 2018 was 1.78%, the same as it was in 2017.
This article has been updated to reflect accurate subscriber numbers for Dish TV and Sling TV.