Dish loses fewer subscribers than expected

Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:07am IST

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(Reuters) - Dish Network Corp, the No. 2 satellite television provider in the United States, lost fewer subscribers than expected in the second quarter, which sent its shares up more than 3 percent on Thursday.

The company said in a regulatory filing that it lost 10,000 net subscribers in the three months ended June 30. This beat estimates by Canaccord Genuity analyst Tom Eagan, who expected the company to lose 87,000 customers. It is also a vast improvement from a year ago when the company lost 135,000 subscribers.

The satellite provider, which ended the quarter with 14.1 million subscribers, has stemmed subscriber losses in the past few quarters. After shedding about 250,000 customers in the second and third quarters of last year, it has been consistently topping analysts' estimates for subscriber growth.

"The improving customer results appear to confirm that the company continues to turn around its PayTV operations," Eagan said in a research note on Thursday.

But the company's churn rate, or rate of cancellations, increased to 1.6 percent, from 1.35 percent in the first quarter of this year. Dish could lose additional customers over the summer because of a content dispute with AMC Networks.

On June 30, Dish dropped New York-based AMC Networks after the companies' contract expired and a new agreement could not be reached. With the AMC channel blacked out, Dish subscribers have not been able to watch the new season of the drama "Breaking Bad."

Dish has also been targeting customers of its main rival, DirecTV, which is engaged in a dispute of its own over fees with Viacom that has left DirecTV's 20 million customers without access to channels such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

On its Facebook page this week, Dish has been posting timely photos and messages promoting programs like "The Daily Show," which are currently unavailable on DirecTV.

Dish is expected to give more financial details on the second quarter when it releases its earnings report later this summer. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Yinka Adegoke in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler and Steve Orlofsky)

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