Satellite television provider Dish Network Corp's posted bigger-than-expected subscriber losses for the fourth quarter as many customers canceled their service after a dispute with Fox Network in October blacked out sports programs.

The second-largest U.S. satellite TV provider lost 156,000 subscribers during the quarter. Kaufman Brothers analyst Todd Mitchell was expecting Dish to add 45,000 subscribers.

These are terrible subscriber numbers--they really lost the match, especially with DirecTV posting such great numbers yesterday, said Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan.

The company appears to be losing market share to main competitor, DirecTV Group, which reported a higher-than-expected profit and more subscriber additions than Mitchell had forecast.

Dish's subscriber losses reflect a similar weakness in the cable TV industry, where viewers are canceling their service because they can no longer afford it and are turning to free content on the Internet.

In a regulatory filing, Dish blamed multiple programing interruptions related to contract disputes with several content providers during the fourth quarter for some its subscriber losses.

Dish fought with News Corp's Fox Network in October after their programing deal expired. Viewers were deprived of Fox's regional sports networks, but the companies struck a deal in time for Major League Baseball's World Series.

Earlier this month, Cablevision Systems Corp, another pay-TV provider, also blamed its quarterly subscriber losses on a programing blackout with Fox [ID:nN15171045].

Dish's fourth-quarter net income attributable to common shareholders rose 41 percent to $252 million, or 56 cents a share. Analysts on an average were expecting 54 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 8.2 percent to $3.21 billion, in line with expectations.

Dish shares were down 1 cent at $22.92 in trading before the market opened.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York and Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)