Dish Network officials have reportedly told Wall Street investment analysts that their Sling TV platform ended the first quarter with around 1.3 million subscribers.
“That number seems to track well with other estimates in the market,” said Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn, who relayed the Wall Street reports in a Wednesday blog posting.
Rayburn’s report came as AT&T, which several months ago had taken pains to break out the fact that rival virtual MPVD service DirecTV Now had added 200,000 subs in just one month of Q4 performance, was fairly mum regarding the platform in Q1.
Dish’s linear satellite platform has been in steep decline in recent quarters, losing 1.037 million customers in 2016, according to Leichtman Research. Analysts have generally attributed the loss of momentum to Dish’s endless series of program licensing disputes—a dynamic that certainly didn’t abate in the first quarter, with Dish just ending a monthlong dispute that kept 31 Hearst TV network affiliates off its platform.
But Sling TV’s growth has remained strong, with Dish even reporting growth of 28,000 subs in Q4. Dish doesn’t bifurcate how many customers the satellite platform and IP service add and subtract each quarter, but it’s generally assumed by analysts that the customer addition—the first one Dish reported going back 10 quarters—could be attributed to Sling TV.
The growth for Sling TV was particularly impressive in the fourth quarter, with AT&T launching virtual-MVPD rival DirecTV Now on Nov. 30.
Dish reports first-quarter earnings on May 1. But the question as to whether Sling TV can maintain its rate of growth might better be answered in the second quarter, the first full quarter in which Sling is sharing the vMPVD market not only with DirecTV Now and Sony PlayStation Vue, but also YouTube TV and Hulu’s soon-to-launch live TV service.
“Between Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, and soon to be Hulu, I expect there will be less than 3 million subs to all the services combined, by the end of this year. So for all those estimates some are putting out on the growth of live TV services, they aren’t realistic,” Rayburn said.