February 13, 2019 / 11:35 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 4-Dish misses profit estimates on bigger subscriber loss, shares fall

(Adds details from conference call)

By Sheila Dang and Sayanti Chakraborty

Feb 13 (Reuters) - Dish Network Corp on Wednesday missed Wall Street expectations for quarterly profit as it lost more pay-TV subscribers due to ongoing blackouts of Spanish-language channel Univision and AT&T Inc's HBO, sending shares of the U.S. satellite TV provider down more than 8 percent.

Dish, which has struggled to stem customer losses from cord-cutting as viewers move to cheaper streaming services, has not been able to agree on new contract terms with Univision and HBO, leading to the blackouts. It will also face more competition as companies such as Walt Disney Co prepare to launch streaming TV services this year.

Dish Chief Executive W. Erik Carlson said during the call with analysts that the company could lose more subscribers if it cannot reach an agreement with HBO by April, when the new season of the channel's hit show "Game of Thrones" is expected to air.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen characterized both the HBO and Univision disputes as "difficult situations" and offered little optimism that the HBO contract could be resolved quickly.

"If they're sticking a gun at your head and taking HBO, you probably would not have conversations," Ergen said of AT&T during the call.

The company's pay-TV business, which includes both satellite TV and streaming service Sling TV, lost a net 334,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter. Analysts were expecting Dish to lose just 264,000, according to research firm FactSet.

The HBO and Univision blackouts accounted for more than half of the net subscriber losses during the quarter, Carlson said.

Dish ended the quarter with 9.9 million satellite subscribers, which make up its core TV business, down from about 11 million last year.

Streaming service Sling TV had 2.42 million subscribers at the end of the quarter, up from 2.2 million in the prior-year quarter.

Net income attributable to Dish Network fell to $337 million, or 64 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31 from $1.39 billion, or $2.64 per share, a year earlier when it recorded a $1.2 billion tax gain.

Excluding items, Dish earned 64 cents per share, but missed the average analyst estimate of 67 cents.

Dish has been building a wireless Internet of Things network in order to diversify its business, and said it continues to expect to meet a deadline to use its wireless spectrum.

Revenue fell to $3.31 billion from $3.48 billion, but beat the analysts' expectation of $3.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of Dish were down 8.2 percent to $28.69 in afternoon trading. (Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish)

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