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DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) recently reported its Q3 earnings. Based on continued subscriber gains and cost improvements in its Latin American business, we have increased our price estimate for DirecTV’s stock to $42.51 which is very close to current market price.

DirecTV competes with satellite pay-TV providers like Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH), cable companies like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable, (NYSE:TWC) and telecom operators like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) in the pay-TV business.

One of the key aspects of the earnings was strong net subscriber gains in the US given the amount of competition in the industry. DirecTV added about 174,000[1] subscribers in Q3 2010 quarter, which is about 28% higher than for same period in 2009.

We now expect the company to have close to 19.1 million subscribers by end of 2010 which amounts to a pay-TV market share of 18%. Although we forecast stabilization in market share, if DirecTV adds another 2 percentage points of market share over the course of our forecast period, this increases our price estimate by almost 7%.

Interestingly, while DirecTV gained significant pay-TV subscribers in its recent quarter, its competitor Dish Network lost about 29,000 subscribers[2]. Dish Network seems to be struggling while DirecTV is flourishing. What is the company doing right?

1) Market Push Paying Off

The company spent about $420 million in marketing in 2009,((DirecTV Creative Shifts to Deutsch N.Y. From Deutsch/LA)) which was about $110[3] million more than Dish Network’s marketing spend. Moreover, DirecTV is reportedly spent a significant amount on new advertisement for NFL Sunday Ticket.

2) Avoiding Pricing Disputes

Dish Network got caught up in carriage fee disputes with content owners like Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Fox, which led to programming interruptions. We think blackouts hurt the brand value as a result. DirecTV has been successful in avoiding such disputes and inconvenience for its subscribers.

3) High Quality Subscriber Base

As DirecTV is seen as a premium brand, it attracts a higher quality subscriber base with customers more likely to have higher incomes and lower churn rates. Dish dolled out compliments to this effect in its recent earnings call[4].

We believe DirecTV’s audience is more likely to take up promotional offers like free HD since a higher proportion might have high-definition TVs or be willing to commit to longer contracts. This leads to lower churn, higher net subscriber additions and market share gains.


  1. Taken from DirecTV’s Q3 2010 SEC filing
  2. Taken from Dish Network’s Q3 2010 SEC filing
  3. Calculated by subtracting Dish Network’s spend from DirecTV’s spend of $420 million. Dish Network’s spend is available from Dish Network Shifts $270 Mil. in Biz to Horizon Media
  4. Mentioned in Dish’s Q3 2010 earnings transcript

Disclosure: No position