Dish Network Subscriber Acquisition Costs Come at Steep Price

[Satellite TODAY Insider 08-08-12] Satellite pay-TV operator Dish Network’s increased investment in subscriber acquisition advertising led to a dramatic improvement in its 2012 second-quarter net subscriber counts, but also negatively impacted its quarterly revenues and profits, according to the company’s latest financial results issued Aug. 8.

   Dish Network’s subscriber acquisition costs increased 75 percent compared with the second quarter of last year to reach $118 million. As a result, the company only lost 10,000 net subscribers in the three-month period ending June 30, as opposed to the 135,000 subscribers it lost during the same period in 2011. Dish Network ended the period with approximately 14.061 million subscribers.
   The satellite broadcaster’s net income, however, dropped 32.6 percent from the $334.8 million in the 2011 second-quarter to $225.7 million in its most recent fiscal period, with revenues dipping slightly year-over-year from $3.59 billion to $3.57 billion. Dish Network also attributed $43 million of its total net profit loss to the loss of its license to operate in the 148 degrees West orbital slot. Additional contributors included higher programming costs and increased brand advertising. The company’s subscriber churn rate of 1.60 percent, however, was an improvement from the 1.67 percent rate from the comparative quarter in 2011.
   “In the face of a difficult economy and stiff competition, a disciplined approach to subscriber acquisition and retention is paying off,” Dish Network CEO and President Joseph Clayton said in a statement. “Our focus has overcome the seasonality of the second quarter with year-over-year growth in gross activations and a reduction in churn. Additionally, the launch of the Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR has improved subscriber quality by adding more DVR and broadband-connected customers to our base.”
   Despite the revenue and profit shortfall, Dish Network still performed better than its market rival DirecTV in the subscriber category. DirecTV lost 52,000 subscribers in its 2012 fiscal second quarter, which was its first period of net subscriber losses.
   After being adjusted for the satellite license charge, Dish Network’s posted earnings still missed estimates from analysts, which produced mixed reviews of the company’s second quarter performance. ISI Group Analyst Vijay Jayant wondered if the broadcaster’s subscriber boost was worth the price it paid for the result. “It appears that the subscriber improvement came at a cost. We believe Dish shares likely will underperform due to these results,” Jayant said in an Aug. 8 research note.
   Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Analyst Craig Moffett echoed Jayant’s assessment, stressing the need for Dish Network to encourage higher spending from its customers. “Investors in DirecTV have fretted that rising programming costs have doomed the U.S. business,” Moffet said in a separate research study. “Investors in Dish Network have, until now, posited a turnaround. It’s getting harder and harder to plausibly argue that this is a turnaround.”

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