UPDATED: Dish may have lost 141K TV subscribers during 4Q, MoffettNathanson says

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) today reported full-year subscriber losses of 81,000 for 2015. As analyst firm MoffettNathanson points out, that implies a loss of 12,000 during the fourth quarter, better than the Street consensus that predicted the satellite TV provider would lose 24,000 subscribers.

But the details get murky once again as Dish continues to lump Sling TV subscriber numbers in with its total pay-TV metrics but refuses to break out subscriber numbers for its linear OTT service.

Using calculations involving Dish's subscriber acquisition costs for 2015 and the operator's churn and total gross additions, MoffettNathanson estimates Dish added 129,000 Sling TV customers during the quarter. That shows healthy growth for the OTT platform but it also implies that Dish's core TV platform lost a whopping 141,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, a financial period that is traditionally favorable for pay-TV in general.

"That comes on the heels of their worst Q3 ever, by the way," MoffettNathanson wrote.

Dish isn't reporting quarterly totals in today's earnings release. But the company is saying its gross new pay-TV subscribers grew year-over-year to 2.77 million, which after the 81,000 in net subscriber losses puts Dish at about 13.9 million subscribers at year-end, down from about 13.98 million at the end of 2014.

Dish was able to drive up pay-TV ARPU to $86.79 during 2015, ahead of the $83.77 it reported for 2014. That helped total pay-TV revenue to hit $15.1 billion in 2015, compared to $14.6 billion in 2014. Despite the revenue gains, Dish's 2015 operating income sharply declined year-over-year.

Dish's 2015 profits fell to $1.3 billion, down from $1.8 billion in 2014. Dish largely attributed the losses to an FCC auction expense of $516 million.

For more:
- read this Dish Network earnings release
- read this MoffettNathanson research report (sub. req.)

Related articles:
Sling TV has less than 500K subs and customer growth is decelerating, says analyst Rayburn
Cord-cutting reached 357K in Q3 based on huge, masked Dish losses, analyst said
Dish loses 23K subscribers in Q3; analysts suspect Sling TV helped bolster satellite TV business

Article updated February 18 to reflect changes in MoffettNathanson's original estimates.

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