Dish Network continued to bleed video customers in the first quarter, dropping 143,000 subscribers in the period – nearly twice consensus estimates -- while managing to post increased profits.
The losses were nearly double analysts’ consensus estimates of -72,000 for the period and nearly three times the 63,000 video customers the satellite company lost in the same period last year.
The actual loss of satellite TV customers was likely much heavier. Dish includes subscribers at its over-the-top Sling TV service in its overall customer numbers. In a research note Monday morning, MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett estimated satellite TV losses could be about 320,000. Sling TV customer additions could be slowing as well. Moffett estimated that Sling added about 177,000 customers in the period, down from 273,000 in the fourth quarter but ahead of the 135,000 additions in Q1 2016.
While subscribers continued to erode, Dish managed to grow cash flow – adjusted EBITDA was $814 million, up 0.1% from last year and 3.6% better than consensus. Revenue was down slightly to $3.7 billion from $3.8 billion in the prior year period, as was net income, at $376 million in the quarter (76 cents per share) compared to $400 million (86 cents per share) a year ago.
The period was impacted by a month-long blackout by Hearst Televsion, affecting more than 30 TV stations in 26 markets. That dispute was resolved on April 27.