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DirecTV Q1 Subs Up; Dish Disappoints

The nation’s two satellite TV providers saw significantly different business results during the first quarter of the year, according to both firm’s quarterly financial reports for the period ending March 31.

DirecTV said it added 275,000 net subscribers and realized a monthly churn rate of 1.36 percent, its lowest in 10 years, as Dish Network saw its net new subscriber totals plummet almost 89 percent in the period, as its monthly churn rate increased to 1.68 percent, from 1.46 percent a year ago.

To date, DirecTV said it has a total of 17.1 million subscribers, compared to Dish Network’s 13.815 million subs.

DirecTV attributed its strong performance in part to its expanded HDTV channel lineup. Half of all new subscribers for the quarter were advanced customers, purchasing HD or DVR services, said Chase Carey, DirecTV CEO, in an earnings conference call. More than 7 million DirecTV customers are advanced-service subscribers with an average monthly bill of $100 a month — 50 percent more than a customer without advanced services, he said.

Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen blamed his decline in subscriber growth on difficult economic conditions, stronger competition, operational miscues, and signal piracy and fraud.

He said the network also suffered delays in expanding its HD lineup through satellite launch failures and the need to take contingency steps to add 22 new national HD channels to the lineup a few days before the first-quarter results were published.

Cable and telco services have aggressively pushed triple-play solutions offering subscribers overall bargains in exchange for long-term service commitments.

Despite the subscriber setback, Dish managed a 7.5 percent increase in total revenue to $2.8 billion. First-quarter net income rose 65 percent to $259 million compared with net income of $157 million in the first quarter of 2007.

DirecTV posted a 10 percent increase in first-quarter net income, as revenues climbed 17 percent vs. the year-ago quarter, to $4.59 billion. Operating profit was also up 17 percent vs. the year-ago quarter to $657 million.