By Drew FitzGerald
Dish Network Corp. posted a surprise customer gain in the third quarter as its internet-TV business overshadowed accounts lost on the satellite side.
Overall, the company posted a net gain of 148,000 pay-TV customers during the three months that ended Sept. 30. That included a loss of 66,000 satellite-TV customers while internet-based Sling TV added 214,000 customers. Dish ended the period with 12.2 million pay-TV subscribers.
Financial analysts expected the company to post a 162,000 subscriber loss, according to an average of estimates compiled by FactSet.
Dish's earnings have come under pressure in recent years as satellite-TV customers drop their channel bundles in search of cheaper alternatives. Some have stopped paying for live TV altogether.
Rival channel bundlers have suffered more defections, however. AT&T Inc. reported a loss of 1.4 million pay-TV customers over the same period, a figure that included customer declines in its online TV service.
AT&T recently increased prices for its AT&T TV streaming video services, while Sony Corp. said it would scrap its PlayStation Vue streaming service. Dish has also raised Sling TV prices, though its basic packages still attract cost-conscious customers with plans as low as $25 a month.
Dish's earnings fell as it traded satellite subscribers for gains at Sling TV. Its average revenue per user slipped to $85.29 during the quarter from $86.29 a year earlier.
Dish reported a third-quarter profit of $353.3 million, or 66 cents a share, down from $431.7 million, or 82 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 6.7% to $3.17 billion.
Growth at Dish was under pressure last year as the company fought with Univision over carriage rates. The two sides struck a deal in March to restore the Spanish language channels.
The company resolved a standoff with Fox Corp. earlier this year that threatened the airing of National Football League games. It continued to negotiate with Fox over carriage of its regional sports networks. Fox Corp. and Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.
Other disputes have lasted longer. AT&T-owned HBO has been unavailable through Dish or Sling for more than a year.
Write to Drew FitzGerald at email@example.com