November 10, 2019
Then Again...
TDG's Weekly News Wrap & Commentary
Pay-TV in Q3: Dish Network reports rare gain in video subscribers 

Précis – In Q3 ’19, Dish Network reported a net gain of 148K video subscribers, including the loss of 66K satellite subscribers but the addition of 214K Sling TV subs. This is the best quarter Dish has had in some time. FierceVideo

TDG – For perspective, Dish lost 341K subscribers in Q3 '18. In Q2 '19, losses were only 31K, with gains turning positive in Q3 '19. Pause and let that sink in. Trending suggested that Q3 ’19 subscriber counts would be relatively positive, but no one expected these results.

So how does one interpret these numbers? Some will argue this is the first sign of a pay-TV turnaround. That’s a bit generous. Note that Q3 pay-TV numbers include (1) the largest declines in cable TV subscriptions to date, and (2) continuing mass exodus from AT&T’s DirecTV satellite (down 1.2M ‘premium’ subs). Dish's numbers, then, are an outlier.

Second, rekindled demand for Sling TV corresponded with a new wave of aggressive discounts, which Dish foreswore several years ago. True, they can spike short-term additions, but once discounts disappear, so too do the subscribers. 

Third, and as TDG first noted in in 2015, the exchange rate for DBS-to-vMVPD subs is quite poor. No surprise, then, that Dish's pay-TV revenue declined from $3.4B in Q3 ’18 to $3.2 billion in Q3 ‘19, down 7% year over year, with net income down 18%. This will only worsen as the cost of promotions take their toll on per-sub profit. 
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