It’s been known for a while that Dish and DirecTV are both declining, especially when it comes to subscribers. The two satellite broadcasters have been bleeding subscribers for years, even more than other pay-TV companies. And at the same time, there has been upheaval with both companies, as DirecTV was recently spun off from AT&T, while Dish Network has been pivoting towards the wireless business.
Now, a new report says the age and conditions of satellites don’t bode especially well for the future of either service.
MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett, as cited by FierceWireless, noted that the two companies’ satellites are notably long in the tooth. Dish has eleven satellites, nine of which are older than ten years old, a situation that’s similar for DirecTV. AT&T said last year that its most recent DirecTV satellite launch would be its last.
“To dwell on whether a given quarter’s subscriber losses are a little better, or a little worse, than expected, or than last quarter, is to miss the point,” Moffett’s research note stated. “We are witnessing the long, slow goodbye of satellite TV. The terminal value of a satellite TV platform with neither satellites nor subscribers is, quite obviously…zero.”
The note also said that while the satellites could last longer than expected, set-top boxes “can’t unscramble signals from the other’s satellites.”
“That programming dispute should be kept in mind as one considers Q2 results; programming costs could rise sharply if RSNs return with broadcast nets (the cost of broadcast nets can be assumed to rise with or without the RSNs),” the note added. “Absent a renewal, subscriber losses would be expected to accelerate without the local broadcast networks.”
Dish and Sinclair did reach a deal this week to temporarily stave off the removal of more than one hundred channels, per USA Today.
“We have agreed to a short-term extension with DISH to continue conversations," David Gibber, senior vice president and general counsel for Sinclair Broadcast Group, told the newspaper in a statement Tuesday. "We will continue to update our viewers as this develops. Sinclair stands willing to continue to negotiate in good faith and to enter into a longer extension to allow for the continued carriage of our channels to DISH’s subscribers.”
Dish dropped another 67,000 net pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter of 2021, according to earnings released earlier this month. That left the company with 10.99 million Pay-TV subscribers as of the end of that quarter. Dish had lost 96,000 pay-TV subscribers in the previous quarter. Dish’s Sling TV service, however, did gain customers in the quarter.
As of the end of the quarter, the company had 10.99 million Pay-TV subscribers, including 8.55 million Dish TV subscribers and 2.44 million for Sling TV.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, 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.