Dish losing pay-TV customers
Like all satellite TV providers, Dish Network (DISH) has been struggling to gain pay-TV customers. Dish Network has been losing its pay-TV customers for the past four consecutive quarters due to declining demand for subscription-TV packages. In the fourth quarter, Dish lost 334,000 net pay-TV subscribers (including both satellite TV and streaming service Sling TV), worse than analysts’ expectation of a loss of 264,000 subscribers. In the previous year’s quarter, Dish gained 39,000 subscribers, including 75,000 reactivations in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, where services had been disrupted due to Hurricane Maria.
At the end of the fourth quarter, Dish Network had 12.3 million net pay-TV subscribers, down from ~13.2 million in the previous year’s period. The company had nearly 9.90 million Dish TV subscribers in 2018, down from 11 million in the previous year’s period.
Cord cutting is hurting pay-TV customer base
Higher-than-expected pay-TV subscriber losses in the quarter were the result of cord cutting. Demand for OTT (over-the-top) online video streaming services is growing rapidly, and consumers are moving away from satellite broadcast packages. Pay-TV company AT&T (T) reported a loss of 403,000 satellite TV customers, more than its expected loss of 328,000 customers, in the fourth quarter. AT&T’s number of traditional customers (satellite and U-verse TV) fell by 391,000 in the quarter.
Traditional pay-TV companies Comcast (CMCSA) and Charter Communications (CHTR) have also been losing video customers for the past several quarters due to cord cutting and competition from OTT players in the industry. As of December 31, 2018, Comcast had lost 19,000 residential video customers, while Charter had lost 36,000 residential video customers in the fourth quarter.