Both Dish Network and DirecTV, the nation’s two satellite broadcasters, have been struggling for a long time, even more than their cable competitors.
According to Leichtman Research Group’s latest quarterly report, DirecTV lost about 350,000 subscribers in the most recent quarter, while Dish Network’s satellite service lost 318,000, leaving them with 12.75 million and 7 million subscribers, respectively.
With the exception of Comcast, the two satellite companies lost the most subscribers of any provider in the quarter.
Satellite Providers Clinging On
Dish’s stock is currently trading at $5.86 a share, while DirecTV has been spun off into a privately-held company after it was previously owned by AT&T. In August of 2021, DirecTV officially became a standalone company, although one that is owned 70 percent by AT&T, with the rest owned by private equity giant TPG. This didn’t stop Donald Trump, early in 2023, from railing against “radical left” AT&T, after DirecTV dropped the pro-Trump news channel Newsmax from its lineup.
“For DIRECTV to drop very popular NEWSMAX, without explanation, will not be accepted. I, for one, will be dropping all association with AT&T and DIRECTV, and I have plenty. This is just one of many reasons why we must WIN IN 2024!!!,” Trump said earlier this year.
Dish, back in February, suffered a massive cyberattack that knocked its billing processes offline for a significant period of time.
Is a Merger Still in the Air?
A merger between the two satellite companies has been called “inevitable” various times in recent years, usually stated by Chairman Charlie Ergen on earnings calls. That thought did not come up, however, on Dish’s most recent earnings call, although Ergen did discuss the merger with DirecTV that was denied by the Justice Department many years ago.
Earlier this month, one report stated that merger talks have happened recently, but have “fizzled out.”
According to the New York Post, Dish Network has been “desperate” to raise money in order to meet deadlines related to its 5G network efforts, which has led it to explore selling assets. Sources told the Post that “the merger Dish explored with fellow satellite provider DirecTV has stalled.”
The story also added that talks with Amazon about “providing Prime customers with spectrum” have gone nowhere.
“We believe the most likely path forward for Dish near term is to negotiate an extension on its 2025 FCC coverage requirement after meeting its June 2023 deadline,” New Street Research policy analyst Blair Levin said in a note, as cited by the Post. “A 1 – 2 year extension would enable Dish to conserve or at least delay 2 to 3 billion of capital spending that would give it more runway to grow its consumer and enterprise subscriber base.”
Earlier this month, Techdirt wrote that Dish Network is “probably doomed.”
“Satellite TV provider Dish Network isn’t having much fun. Despite oodles of direct government assistance during the Trump era, the company’s attempt to pivot from mediocre satellite TV provider to modern streaming TV and 5G wireless giant has been a consistent dumpster fire,” Karl Bode wrote.
“Both the company’s dying satellite TV service and its streaming TV platform (SlingTV) have been bleeding customers, and Dish’s supposed 5G network, the byproduct of a doomed Trump era effort to ‘fix’ the competitive problems caused by the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, looks to be a hot mess. And that was before the company was recently hacked, knocking systems offline for weeks.”
Dish had appeared to pivot its future towards providing a new wireless network, as part of a side deal that allowed the approval of that merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.
But the going has been slow. But Techdirt called that move “a desperate retirement ploy for Charlie Ergen.”
Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.