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Dish Network CEO Joe Clayton stepping down

Joe Clayton, CEO of Dish, speaks at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, January 5, 2015.
Rick Wilking | Reuters

Dish Network founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen will return to take charge of the company that has amassed troves of unused U.S. wireless spectrum in a maturing pay-TV market.

Dish said on Monday Chief Executive Joe Clayton, 65, will retire on March 31. He joined Dish in 2011 after Ergen, 61, stepped down from the CEO role, a job he held for more than a decade. Ergen stayed on as chairman.

A Dish co-founder, Ergen returns at a time when Dish, the second-largest U.S. satellite TV company is grappling to staunch subscriber losses.

In the record-setting AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction in the United States that closed last month, Dish itself did not win any licenses but invested in bidding partners SNR Wireless LicenseCo and Northstar Wireless, which bid a hefty $13.3 billion to lap up airwaves in prime geographic locations such as New York and Chicago.

The company Monday also reported quarterly revenue that fell short of estimates as it lost more about 63,000 pay-TV subscribers in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, almost double the number forecast by market research firm StreetAccount.

This was partly due to the absence of channels from the Twenty-First Century Fox from Dish's service, following a dispute between the two companies that was resolved in January.

The 2014 churn rate, or user defections to other networks, was 1.59 percent, up slightly from 1.58 percent from a year earlier.

Net income attributable to the company rose to $409.9 million, or 88 cents per share, from $288 million, or 63 cents per share, a year earlier.

"Dish hasn't grown its subscriber base in six years and in most business falling subscribership means falling margins as well, Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson, said. "But today's results were better on margins."

He attributed that in part to lower programming costs while certain shows were off the air.

In January, Dish launched a $20 a month video-streaming service targeted to younger consumers who shun pricey cable and satellite subscriptions.

Revenue rose 4 percent to $3.68 billion, slightly below anaylsts' expectations of $3.70 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Dish's recent spectrum auction bid, however, is under review as U.S. regulators will examine a $3 billion discount claimed by the company and partners including investment management company BlackRock Inc.

Shares in Dish rose about 2 percent to $79.83 on Monday morning.

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