Dish Network didn’t have a lot of good news to share on its third quarter 2023 earnings call today. The company reported revenue totaling $3.70 billion for the quarter, compared to $4.10 billion for the corresponding period in 2022.
Dish also saw a decrease in net income year-over-year, reporting a net loss of $139 million for Q3 2023, compared to $412 million in net income in Q3 2022.
Piling on further, Dish reported net retail wireless subscribers decreased by about 225,000 in this quarter. It had lost 188,000 wireless subscribers in the second quarter 2023. The company closed the quarter with 7.5 million retail wireless subscribers.
Dish’s stock is down more than 30% since this morning’s earnings report, clocking in at about $3.48 per share.
On today’s earnings call Mike Kelly, executive vice president of Retail Wireless with Dish, said of subscriber losses on Boost Mobile and Boost Infinite, “There’s a lot of discipline we brought back into the sales channel over the quarter, which resulted in less net adds than we expected.”
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen elaborated that before Kelly joined the company recently, Dish had “some customers we made money on, and some we didn’t.” He said since Kelly’s arrival, the company is being more selective about obtaining and retaining profitable customers and incentivizing its sales force to achieve these goals.
Kelly also said, “We’re focused on putting devices in the hands of our customers that will load on the 5G network going forward.”
Ergen reminded everyone that the majority of Boost customers do not currently have phones that are compatible with Dish’s network, and so they are riding on the networks of either T-Mobile or AT&T via a wholesale relationship with those providers.
In July, Dish announced that it was selling Boost Infinite — its postpaid wireless plan — through Amazon.
Today, Dish executives were questioned about the paucity of marketing associated with that Amazon relationship.
Kelly said, “With response to advertising we do have a relationship with Amazon to focus on acquiring customers through that channel. We’ll be working with their advertising sales team."
Ergen said, “Are we doing a great job of marketing? The answer is no. The messaging didn’t have quite the desired effect because people don’t know about it.” But he still sounded very bullish about the online approach to selling wireless. “The good news is: when we do it right online, we make that a better experience than going to a store. There has to be messaging and marketing and things to make that happen.”
He said the relationship with Amazon had to be put together rather quickly because the iPhone was coming out on a certain date, and Dish wanted to meet that deadline.
He noted that Dish could have hit the ground running much faster if it already had 5,000 postpaid stores. But it doesn’t. “But on the other hand, if you make the online process better, you’re gonna wish you didn’t have 5,000 stores.”
Dish has said that it will spend $10 billion to build its own greenfield wireless network. It is currently reducing the pace of that capex spend for the time being. Ergen said, “Capex will continue to decline the rest of this year and into 2024 until you see an uptick in the first half of 2025 for a couple quarters as we finish that final buildout milestone.”
The deployments of cell sites will continue in the fourth quarter 2023, though at a slower pace. The company is now targeting 20,000 cell sites on air by year-end, up from the 16,000 they had at mid-year.
The analysts at New Street Research led by Jonathan Chaplin wrote, “We now expect capex to drop to around $250 million per quarter for the next five quarters before stepping up to $500 million per quarter in the first half of 2025.”
Moving customers onto Dish’s own network
John Swieringa, president and COO of Dish Wireless, said, “We’ve got a little over 120 million commercial VoNR PoPs today, about a third of the country where we have voice and data, which is needed for Boost Mobile and Boost Infinite. We’re going to take that up another third to 240 million by June.”
He said the trajectory will ultimately take Dish to “full MNO economics” where it doesn’t have to rely on its MVNO partners.
He also talked about getting the device ecosystem capable of supporting Dish’s network. About one-third of the devices Dish activates are compatible with its network. But by June 2024, about two-thirds of activated devices will be compatible with support from the Android and iPhone communities. He noted that having customers on Dish’s network will allow it to “take a sizable chunk out of our MVNO bill.”
In August Dish announced it was merging with EchoStar. That deal is about to close.
Dish Network filed a notice with the SEC last Friday that Dish Network President and CEO Erik Carlson intends to resign effective November 12 — a plan that was set in place when the EchoStar merger was announced. Hamid Akhavan, the current CEO and president of EchoStar, will assume the additional post of president and CEO of Dish effective November 13.