Dish Network shares are down 4.4% in mid-day trading after it reported worse than expected Q2 results — without offering news on the subject that investors really care about: a possible deal with another company that might covet Dish’s spectrum rights.
CEO Charlie Ergen declined to discuss specifics, including a recent report that Dish has been talking with Amazon, in his quarterly earnings call.
Meanwhile, he says, “our core [satellite TV] business is a mature to declining business.”
Ergen is hopeful that Dish will be a player in any number of emerging businesses including services for so-called Internet of Things devices, and 5G wireless.
“If you’re an investor in Dish you have to have a longer term horizon,” he says.
He believes owners of distribution networks will combine, just as programmers including Discovery Communications is with Scripps Networks Interactive.
“My gut feel is that we’ll be involved in some of those conversations,” Ergen says.
He isn’t concerned about Comcast and Charter’s efforts to launch their own wireless services, using their WiFi networks with cell calls going over Verizon’s network.
“You’re going to see cable in the business because they’re connectivity companies, too,” he says. “Ultimately they’re going to want owner economics.”
That could make Dish more attractive: Ergen says there’s a growing number of big companies that need connectivity to survive. “At some point they’re going to take out insurance policies” by controlling access to consumers.
Dish has a lot riding on Sling. The technology to implement the live streaming service “was harder than we expected, but we think we have it cracked now,” Sling CEO Roger Lynch says.
Ergen acknowledges that new competitors including YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, and Hulu Live could take market share from Sling. But the streaming video “has a lot of growth ahead, Sling included.”
Dish’s profits took a hit in Q2 from a $280 million set-aside to deal with FTC charges that the company’s telemarketers violated the federal Do Not Call rules. Dish reported $40 million in net income, down from $424 million in the period last year.
With the charge, earnings per share came in at 9 cents — far below the 74 cents that analysts expected.
Revenues at $3.64 billion were down 5.7% and missed Street expectations for $3.72 billion.
Dish subscribers — including ones in its Sling TV streaming service — dropped 196,000 to 13.332 million. In the period last year it lost 281,000 subs.
The sub numbers beat expectations, but analysts had to estimate how much was due to Sling, which is far less profitable than satellite.
Evercore ISI’s Vijay Jayant estimates that Dish lost as many as 302,000 satellite customers, and picked up as many as 106,000 at Sling ones.
In any case, MoffettNathanson Research’s Craig Moffett says that time “is running out for Dish’s core business….Eventually, the accumulated damage to the core business is greater than the short term benefit from shrinking gross additions.”