Dish Network Shares Slump On Q4 Results Marred By Carriage Disputes – Update

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UPDATED with closing price. Dish Network shares fell nearly 8% midway after the company released lackluster fourth-quarter results amid ongoing carriage disputes with HBO and Univision.

Diluted earnings per share plunged to 64 cents from $2.64 in the same quarter a year ago. Total revenue slid to $3.31 billion from $3.48 billion in the comparable period in 2017. Wall Street analysts had expected profit of 67 cents and revenue of $3.28 million.

Shares in Dish closed at $28.86 on four times their normal trading volume, on a day of overall gains for the broader market and in the media sector. While Dish’s stock had risen more than 15% in 2019 to date heading into the day, the bigger picture is not as pretty. It has lost more than half its value in the past 18 months as the company’s plans for a mobile network have foundered and the strain on the traditional TV bundle business continues to grow.

Dish co-founder and chairman Charlie Ergen — a rebellious and controversial figure in TV industry circles — addressed the state of carriage talks and the rest of Dish’s business today during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. (Ergen’s update in brief: “HBO is not trying. Univision is trying. But they’re different situations.”) Commentary from Ergen and president and CEO W. Erik Carlson indicated that no end is in sight on either front.

The most eye-catching stat in the financial report was the number of pay-TV subscribers, which fell 334,000 in the quarter, a reversal of the year-ago quarter’s net gain of 39,000. The numbers show the toll of two months-long carriage disputes with major programmers, Univision and HBO, which executives said accounted for half of the losses.

Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson, called the quarterly numbers “predictably awful” in a research note to clients, and cautioned that long-term trends do not bode well. “With not one but two major programming blackouts, churn has resumed its spiral higher,” Moffett wrote. “Customers are being taught to expect that programming will go away from time to time … and that it may not come back.”

Univision executives will be updating investors Thursday morning on their view of the Dish situation during the privately held company’s quarterly earnings call.

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