Dish Network DISH decided to get into the wireless business years ago. In fact, they were a part of why the U.S. government permitted the merger of T-Mobile TMUS and Sprint. At that time, there were four wireless carriers, AT&T Mobility T and Verizon Wireless VZ were the two behemoths. T-Mobile and Sprint were the small fry. After the merger, we had three large competitors, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. We were told — and we were expecting to see — Dish Network enter the fray as the new fourth-largest player. So what happened?
The simple truth is that, after spending years trying to build their wireless footprint, Dish still is not there yet. Wireless was to be their savior like Xfinity Mobile was for Comcast CMCSA , Spectrum Mobile was for Charter Communications CHTR and Optimum was for Altice ATUS . Or so Dish thought.
Years have passed and Dish is still not a real player. Over the past few years, they acquired several smaller wireless resellers. However, customers still know each of these as they were.
Nor has the company built its own wireless brand or presence in the marketplace. Why not? Any wireless competitor needs brand identification.
Wireless has become one of the most competitive and combative industries of all time. There are three major networks and countless MVNO resellers.
The Dish Network satellite television business was in the pay TV sector. Not a competitive or combative industry. Perhaps the answer is that Dish just doesn’t know how to create a wireless brand.
Wireless is, after all, different. Very different.
If you have been reading my columns over the years, you will remember I have always had doubts about Dish successfully getting into wireless. Not that they couldn’t, but did they have the DNA to understand the challenge?
The most recent quarterly report shows Dish Network is continuing to lose market share. Retail wireless subscribers fell by roughly 188,000 in the second quarter. That was compared with a loss of roughly 210,000 subscribers a year ago.
The pay TV side of Dish has continued to see losses of roughly 294,000 subscribers. That’s compared with a loss of roughly 257,000 during 2Q of last year.
The larger pay TV business has been losing market share for years. Traditional cable TV competitors like Comcast or Xfinity, Charter or Spectrum and Altice or Optimum have been losing market share as well. DirecTV too.
Dish’s Grip Slips
That’s why the entire industry is trying to come up with solutions to this growing problem. That’s why wireless and streaming services were created.
Traditional cable TV services thought if they could create what I call a ”sticky bundle” of services, it would slow their market share loss. And it worked, for a while.
Their bundle of cable TV, Internet, wireless, VoIP telephone and more kept the customer in place for several years.
The problem is that grip is slipping once again.
Dish Network was a satellite TV service, but they suffer the same market reshaping changes that cable TV does.
One problem is that Dish does not offer the wider range of services. All they offer is satellite TV and wireless. And wireless has not really made a dent in the marketplace to date.
That’s the problem Dish faces today. So there are many questions. Will they ever be a player in wireless? And if they are, will it matter by the time they do?
The marketplace is changing. Every pay TV competitor is under the competitive and industry reshaping gun.
Dish Network is feeling this pressure and they do not seem to have an escape valve.
That’s one reason Dish is merging with Echostar SATS . This should close by the end of this year.
Dish and Echostar were one company until they split in 2008. A lifetime ago. So much has changed.
What the future holds for Dish Network is still unclear. Will they ever successfully enter the wireless industry? Will they ever be able to turn around their pay TV and wireless losses? Will merging with Echostar translate into anything positive for the company?
We will just have to keep our eyes on Dish, the pay TV and wireless industry, the moves they make from now on, and whether it will make a difference.