Dish loses more pay TV subscribers, but beats first quarter revenue estimates

(Reuters) - U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp DISH.O lost more than 250,000 pay TV subscribers, but beat revenue estimates in the first quarter as it waived fees and paused services for some business customers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dish Network shares were up 2.88% in midday trading.

Total revenue for the company rose to $3.22 billion in the first quarter, beating analysts’ average estimate of $3.15 billion, according to IBES data by Refinitiv.

The company plans to re-position itself as a wireless carrier to stem the losses in its Pay TV business, but provided few updates on its steps toward launching its virtual 5G network.

Much like AT&T Inc T.N, Dish bled pay TV subscribers in its first quarter as consumers moved to online streaming platforms and cut cable services during furloughs and layoffs due to nationwide shutdowns.

Dish’s pay TV unit, which includes its Sling TV streaming service and Dish TV satellite television, lost net 413,000 subscribers compared with a net loss of 259,000 subscribers a year earlier. Analysts at Cowen expected a pay TV net loss of 222,000.

Dish TV specifically lost 132,000 net subscribers in the first quarter, beating FactSet estimates of 137,100 net losses.

Dish, which aims to strengthen its potential as a wireless carrier, reaffirmed its plans on its earnings call to purchase Boost Mobile this year.

The company aims to create a virtual 5G network that is estimated to cost $10 billion and announced its first network vendor in April.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said on an earnings call that the estimated price of the network would help the company exceed its regulatory requirements and that he expects Dish to provide post-paid services in 2021.

Dish has until 2023 to provide wireless coverage to 70% of the U.S. population or it faces $2.2 billion in FCC fines.

Net income attributable to Dish fell to $73.1 million, or 13 cents per share, from $339.8 million, or 65 cents per share.

Excluding items, Dish reported earnings of 55 cents per share, below the estimate of 58 cents per share.

MoffettNathanson Craig Moffett warned in a report that a bulk of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Dish will be seen in the next quarter.

“Dish Network took steps weeks ago to cut headcount and slash expenses,” Moffett said in the report. “Those expense reductions may help cushion the blow when the real impact of the crisis begins to be felt in Q2.”

Reporting by Neha Malara and Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru and Arriana Mclymore in Raliegh, North Carolina; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Chizu Nomiyama