Dish Network is still feeling the affects of no HBO—particularly as the final season of “Game of Thrones” plays out—and it’s resulting in accelerated subscriber losses.
During the first quarter, Dish lost approximately 259,000 net pay TV subscribers. That includes a loss of approximately 266,000 net Dish TV satellite subscribers which was partially offset by the addition of approximately 7,000 net Sling TV subscribers. Dish lost a net 94,000 pay TV subscribers in the year-ago quarter.
While gross new Dish TV subscriber activations totaled about 243,000 during the quarter, Dish TV’s churn rate of 1.74% held largely steady with where it was for full-year 2018.
“We experienced a higher DISH TV churn rate, higher net Pay-TV subscriber losses and lower gross new DISH TV subscriber activations during the third and fourth quarter 2018, and continuing into the first quarter 2019, when Univision and AT&T removed certain of their channels from our DISH TV and Sling TV programming lineup,” said Dish in a regulatory filing, offering no assurances that the absence of HBO wouldn’t continue to materially harm Dish’s business.
Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen has been highly critical of AT&T’s HBO and Cinemax channels being removed from Dish platforms. AT&T also owns DirecTV, the primary satellite service competitor to Dish, and Ergen has accused AT&T of being anti-competitive by withholding HBO and other major networks.
HBO responded by saying that in its more than 40 years of operation, it has always been able to reach agreements with distributors, but that Dish is being “extremely difficult” and is responding to good faith negotiations with “unreasonable terms.”
But Dish did reach a new long-term carriage agreement with Univision during the first quarter. The company ended up closing the quarter with 12.063 million total pay TV subscribers, including 9.639 million Dish TV satellite subscribers and 2.424 million Sling TV subscribers.
Dish finished the quarter with about $3.19 billion in total revenues, down from about $3.46 billion in the year-ago quarter. Net income attributable to Dish Network totaled $340 million, compared to net income of $368 million from the year-ago quarter.