Dish loses 63K subs in Q4 as carriage battles take their toll

Blackouts with networks including CBS Corp., Turner Networks and Fox News dinged Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) subscriber base in the fourth quarter, with the satellite service losing 63,000 customers during the three-month period ending Dec. 31.

Dish ended 2014 with 13.97 million pay-TV customers, down around 79,000 from where it ended 2013. The company did add 114,000 broadband subscribers in 2014.

"We had CBS, Fox and Turner down, and those all had negative impacts to our company in the short term," said Dish Network chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen in a Monday afternoon call with investors. "We have to balance the short-term negative impact with the long-term risek of paying too much for programming."

For the full year, Dish reported a 7 percent rise in revenue to $14.6 billion, and a 17 percent uptick in net income to $945 million.

Ergen, who will re-add the role of CEO upon the just-announced retirement of Joseph Clayton at the end of March, played down reports that ongoing carriage renewal talks with Viacom could also become contentious. 

"Viacom is one of our better relationships," he said. "We just renewed a deal with them for EPIX, and they are a valued content provider. We don't talk about our negotiations, per se, but as long as we're treated fairly and our customers are treated fairly, we're confident we'll continue working with Viacom, as we have for the last 20 years. 

Ergen spent much of Monday's address discussing the spectrum Dish acquired alongside small CE partners at the FCC's AWS-3 auction. He dismised accusations by AT&T and others that Dish improperly benefited from FCC loopholes and created artificial demand.

"We went by the rules that were approved unanimously by FCC commissioners and were commented on publicly," Ergen said. 

For a complete look at his discussion on spectrum and Dish's future participation in the wireless business, read this FierceWireless story.

For more:
- read this Dish earnings release

Related links:
Dish announces retirement of Joseph Clayton, Ergen to step in as CEO
Viacom and Dish make deal: EPIX to run on Sling TV
Dish seeks to poach DirecTV customers; promises they'll save $250 by switching over
Dish's road to $3.33B in AWS-3 discounts included a complex web of investments