from the who-could-have-predicted-it,-beyond-everyone? dept
Aging satellite TV provider Dish Network is supposed to be undergoing a major transformation from tired old satellite TV provider to streaming and wireless juggernaut, but it’s… not going well.
The company’s latest earnings report indicates it lost another 284,000 video subscribers during the quarter. That includes a loss of 197,000 satellite TV customers, as well as a loss of 97,000 streaming (Sling TV) subscribers. At the same time, the company’s attempted pivot to wireless has resulted in Dish losing 250,000 wireless subscribers in just one quarter.
Normally a boring company failing isn’t of particular note.
But you might recall that Dish’s attempted pivot into 5G wireless was the flimsy justification Trump regulators used to justify approving the competition-eroding Sprint and T-Mobile merger. We didn’t need to worry about the competition-eroding or employment harms of the deal, we were told, because Dish would use its massive spectrum holdings to create a major new wireless competitor.
Those efforts similarly aren’t going well, with a commercial 5G network that seems laughably undercooked with limited coverage and device selection. Despite a low chance of success and massive costs to expand a 5G network nobody seems to want to actually use, Dish keeps spinning rosy yarns to investors and regulators, though in a research note sector analyst Craig Moffett say things aren’t looking good:
“Dish has no money. They have more spectrum than they know what to do with. Among their
many problems – their Boost pre-paid business is floundering; their Boost post-paid launch is
stillborn; their satellite TV business is in free fall; their streaming video service is imploding;
free cash flow is already negative and is falling fast.”
Dish announced in August that it would be merging with Echostar in a transparent bid to keep things afloat for a bit longer and distract folks from the company’s ugly summer hacker intrusion, but bankruptcy seems increasingly inevitable. Even the normally bubbly, industry-friendly trade magazines that have lent credibility to Dish’s gambit to date seem to be changing their tune.
It always seemed obvious that Dish’s push into wireless and streaming was a desperate Hail Mary that would involve stringing regulators along with the promise of 5G competition, before the company inevitably cashes out its spectrum, pays whatever pathetic fine the FCC can concoct for missing merger-related 5G build obligations, and CEO Charlie Ergen rides into retirement atop a giant pile of money.
Whatever’s left of Dish’s sad 5G network gets hoovered up by one of the remaining industry players (Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile), and the never ending quest for mindless consolidation continues, with absolutely nobody in the chain facing even a hint of accountability or introspection.