DISH reports a mixed bag of results

It’s a big day for DISH, as first quarter results are announced to the world. Shareholders should be happy, as both revenue and net income are up. Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), a common measurement in the pay-TV industry, is up as well although not as high as other pay-TV providers.

DISH also reports a net loss of 23,000 subscribers, which contrasts with last year’s gain of 35,000 subscribers which may have been attributable to the launch of the Sling TV service. It is an unfortunate fact that subscriber losses are very common in the pay-TV industry for every company except AT&T/DIRECTV, who until recently had an unbroken string of net subscriber additions. DIRECTV continues to grow outside the US, but the general feeling among all providers is that US pay-TV is a mature market unlikely to repeat the massive growth it saw in the last decades of the 20th century.

What’s interesting about DISH lately is that they lump all their subscriber numbers together from their Sling TV service and their traditional pay service, which makes it a little harder to see what’s truly going on. If Sling TV were growing massively compared to DISH satellite, you would actually expect ARPU to go down because Sling TV is a much less expensive service. However, ARPU did rise by about 2.5% which says that at least some of the increase is coming from DISH’s satellite operations. Because we know that DISH’s prices year-over-year are about 6% higher (and if ARPU went up 6% we’d then say all the increase came from satellite), we can probably figure that much of the growth is coming from Sling TV, and that’s keeping ARPU from rising as high as it could. Confused? Yeah, me too (and I wrote this!)

As the only top-tier pay-TV provider that doesn’t provide internet and landline service, DISH increasingly finds itself working hard to reinforce the position it does have, offering hybrid boxes like the new Hopper 3 which integrates both Netflix and out-of-home streaming, and creating innovative “skinny bundles” with Sling TV. This strategy continues to work for them obviously, because revenues keep rising.

If you’re looking for the whole thing in their words…. it’s just one click away.