Dish Shares Down in Early Trading

Dish Network shares fell by more than 7% Wednesday, after the satellite giant reported accelerated customer losses in the fourth quarter.

The stock fell as low as $28.24 each (down 9.7%) in early trading Feb. 13 after the company said it had lost 334,000 total pay TV subscribers in Q4, compared to a gain of 39,000 in the prior year. The stock closed at $28.86 per share on Feb. 13, down 7.7% or $2.40 each. 

The declines come as Dish stock was beginning to show some signs of life this year, up about 25% since December. The shares plunged 48% in 2018.

Breaking out the numbers, Dish lost about 381,000 satellite TV subscribers in the quarter -- compared to a loss of 121,000 in the same period in 2017. Sling TV additions at about 50,000 in Q4 were less than one-third the 160,000-subscriber gain in the prior year.

Dish blamed the losses partially on channel blackouts. In June, Spanish-language programmer Univision went dark to Dish customers (its sports network Univision Deportes was pulled in November). Dish’s carriage deal with premium programmer HBO expired in November and was not renewed. 

“With ongoing programming blackouts from both HBO and Univision, the Q4 numbers announced today were predictably awful, even with the benefit of the perversely avoided programming costs,” wrote MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett in a note to clients. “The satellite TV side of Dish’s business is beset by alligators.”