AT&T vMVPD continues to surge as Dish platform slows

Although it launched a full 22 months later, AT&T’s DirecTV Now virtual pay TV platform is on a pace to surpass the first virtual pay TV platform to market, Sling TV.

Launching in February 2015, Dish’s Network’s Sling TV has amassed an industry-leading 2.444 million customers. But the virtual pay TV platform just had its slowest quarter since Dish began breaking out its subscriber performance to date—or at least since in the middle of 2017, when Dish began breaking out Sling TV numbers—adding just 41,000 users.

Related: Moffett: Cord-Cutting Slowing Down

In the first quarter, Sling TV reported additions of 91,000 users. In the second quarter of 2017, research group MoffettNathanson said it tallied Sling TV’s gains at around 120,000.

Meanwhile, DirecTV Now added 342,000 users in the second quarter, bringing its total to 1.81 million. AT&T reported DirecTV Now growth of 152,000 in the second quarter of 2017. 

AT&T is aggressively driving this growth with promotions. As TV answerman blogger Phil Swann reported yesterday, the company is still offering new customers a $10-a-month price for their first three months of service. 

Of course, if the two vMVPDs maintained their current trajectories, DirecTV Now would pass Sling as the industry leader before the end of 2018.

With Wall Street analysts now fixated on what Dish does with its wireless spectrum, there is little interest these days in what happens to legacy operations like Sling TV.

“While this deceleration will likely get a fair amount of attention—Sling was once hailed as Dish’s pay TV future—it simply isn’t very important for the longer term,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said.

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For its part, Dish still claims Sling TV will have an important role in its 5G future, and that development of advanced advertising will improve the platforms profitability going forward.

“And so sure, I mean there has been a little bit of a slowdown in growth but we think we’re well-positioned and well poised,” said Sling TV president Warren Schlichting during Dish’s Q2 earnings report last week.

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