Sling TV Adds 65,000 Q2 Subscribers

Dish Network Aug. 9 said it added 65,000 Sling TV subscribers in the second quarter, ended June 30. The pioneer online TV platform ended the quarter with 2.44 million subs, representing more than 22% of the satellite TV operator’s total pay-TV subscription business.

Dish markets Sling — the first-ever online TV service launched in 2015 — to consumers who do not subscribe to traditional satellite and cable pay-TV services, as well as to current and recent traditional pay-TV subs who desire a lower cost alternative.

The strategy appears to be working as Sling has added 121,000 net subs in the past 12 months, overcoming a 56,000 net sub loss in the previous-year period. Through six months of the fiscal year, Sling has added 302,000 subs compared to a loss of 337,000 subs in last year.

“We continue to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers,” Dish wrote in the regulatory filing. “The six months ended June 30, 2020, was negatively impacted by delays and cancellations of sporting events as a result of COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, Dish’s legacy satellite TV service lost 262,000 subs over the past year, an increase of 90,000 subs from the previous-year period. The decline marked a downturn from the 40,000 pay-TV subs lost in the previous-year period. Dish lost 200,000 pay-TV subs in the first quarter.

Dish attributed the increase in net satellite TV subscriber losses to lower gross new pay-TV subscriber activations and a higher churn rate. In an attempt to reverse the churn rate, last month, Dish inked an agreement with WarnerMedia to offer its pay-TV subs direct access to the latter’s HBO Max subscription streaming video platform.

Dish Ends Carriage Dispute, Adds HBO Max, HBO, Cinemax Access to Satellite TV Subs

Dish Network July 29 announced it is making the HBO Max streaming platform, as well as HBO and Cinemax, available to satellite TV subscribers nationwide through a new agreement with WarnerMedia. For a limited time, Dish is offering subs a 10-day free preview of HBO and Cinemax from Aug. 6 through August 15.

Ever since AT&T acquired Time Warner, creating WarnerMedia, Dish has been at an impasse regarding carriage agreements for the latter’s premium networks HBO and Cinemax. As a result, the two have been unavailable to Dish subscribers — until now.

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Dish customers can subscribe to the ad-free Max option for $12 per month for up to 12 months when they subscribe by Oct. 27. The standard rate is $14.99 per month. The subscription includes access to the entire HBO service and Max Originals. Dish subs can also subscribe to Cinemax for $10 per month. Subs get three live channels, including Cinemax, 5-Star Max and More Max, as well as access to thousands of movies on demand.

“Today’s launch with Dish is a key addition to our distribution strategy for the platform,” Scott Miller, EVP of business and legal affairs for WarnerMedia, said in a statement.

This summer, Max features the first film in the “Music Box” series, Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage; the new comedy special Tig Nataro: Drawn; returning series “Back on the Record With Bob Costas”; a new documentary series, “Small Town News: KPVM Pahrump”; and a new season of “Hard Knocks: The Dallas Cowboys” from HBO Sports and NFL Films.

Subs can also catch up on the Emmy-nominated Max Original series “The Flight Attendant” and “Hacks” ahead of their anticipated second season premieres. This fall brings new limited series “Scenes From a Marriage,” starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, and the anticipated third season of Emmy Award-winning series “Succession.”

On-demand HBO and Cinemax content requires an internet-connected Dish Hopper or Wally. Access to the Max app requires a compatible streaming device and internet connection.

Dish Showcases Most-Popular Original Hulu TV Shows by State

Hulu original episodic shows have generated industry acclaim and loyal viewers. New data from Dish Network found that in addition to Hulu shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” about an oppressed version of the U.S., “Mrs. America,” showing the history to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and “The Act,” telling the story of a true American crime, a slew of under-the-radar programs resonate with viewers.

To compile its list, gathered a list of Hulu original television shows from their website. Next, it used the website analytics tool Semrush to collect the average monthly search volume of each Hulu original series. Finally, using Google Trends to track the search volume for the 10 most-popular Hulu series in each state and the District of Columbia.

According to the data, the most-searched Hulu original show was “Animaniacs,” appearing in a total of 22 states, or 43% of the country. The show originally premiered in 1993, but was re-released in November 2020 with 13 new episodes as a Hulu original series. It was nominated for an “Outstanding Children’s Program” award by the Producers Guild of America.

The second-most-searched show on the list, “A Teacher,” was the most-Googled Hulu original in 12 states. Critically acclaimed “The Handmaid’s Tale” was the most-searched Hulu original by a total of 9 states on the list.

Among one-state wonders: “Castle Rock,” (Colorado) “Mrs. America,” (District of Columbia) and “Little Fires Everywhere” (Rhode Island) were the most-searched Hulu originals.

With “Castle Rock” set in a fictional town in Maine, the Dish team was surprised to find out Colorado searched the show the most. “Mrs. America” tells the story of the 1970s movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which makes DC an appropriate location to search up the drama.

“We had thought Massachusetts would search “Little Fires Everywhere” the most because the first publicly-funded fire department in America was formed in Boston,” Dish’s Tara McGarry wrote in a blog post.

Verizon Offering Limited Free Access to Sling TV

In a marketing twist, Verizon is making it easier for its subscribers to discover a new way to watch television — on a competitor’s platform. Starting May 19, new and existing Verizon subs with a wireless, Fios TV or 5G Home account can get two months of Sling TV service for free. The platform’s domestic and international services cost $35 monthly thereafter. Spanish-language Sling costs $15 monthly after a three-month free trial on Verizon.

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Launched 2015 by Dish Network, Sling TV was the first standalone online TV service that offered access to marquee pay-TV channels such as ESPN without a traditional bundled subscription. Verizon subs can download the Sling app on their streaming devices and then watch news, sports and 80,000 on-demand TV shows and movies.

“We’ll continue to lead the market with our delivery of not only unmatched value in live TV, but also unique, customer-centric packaging flexibility and innovation across live sports, news and entertainment,” Michael Schwimmer, group president of Sling TV, said in a statement.

To get two months of Sling TV on Verizon, sign in to the My Verizon App. Scroll down and tap the Sling TV tile. Review the redemption page and tap Go to Sling TV. Select a Sling TV service, and then create an account. You will be required to provide an email address and valid form of payment (credit card, debit card or PayPal). Check your email for a message from Sling confirming that your account has been activated and how to start streaming.

“This partnership enables our customers to watch live television when, where and how they want,” said Erin McPherson, head of consumer content and partnerships at Verizon. “We are excited to provide even more value and choice as we welcome Sling TV to our ecosystem of incredible partners and services.”

Verizon also has a free 12-month promotional deal with Disney+.

Dish Bows New $1.5 Billion Debt Offering

Dish Network has big plans in the wireless and telecom business. To help fund its way and pay off existing debt, the corporate parent of satellite pay-TV distribution and online TV platform Sling TV announced that on May 10, its subsidiary, Dish DBS Corp., priced a long-term debt offering of $1.5 billion.

Net proceeds of the bond sale are intended to be used for general corporate purposes, including refinancing of indebtedness. The offering is expected to close on May 24 subject to customary conditions.

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Last December, Dish issued $2 billion in long-term bonds, using the proceeds to for its nascent wireless spectrum business.

Sling TV in the first quarter of this year lost 100,000 subs, an improvement from a loss of 281,000 subs in the previous-year period. The platform ended the three-month period, which ended March 31, with 2.37 million subs, compared with 2.47 million subs at the end of 2020.

Dish: Smoking Scenes Decline in Movies

Actors lighting up cigarettes (or vaping these days) in movies seems to be common, but new data from Dish Network contends just 6% of feature films today depict characters smoking. That’s down from 39% in 1970. The percentage skyrockets going back further to the Golden Age of Hollywood when characters were so often seen with cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and alcohol, it almost seemed like extensions of their bodies.

Back then smoking was viewed as a status symbol, and tobacco brands often sponsored film studios. Some actors even had their own endorsements. Since smoking was such an accepted practice in society, the habit easily made its way onto the big screen.

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Dish took to IMDb and analyzed movies from 1950 to September 2020, sticking to titles with a rating of 3 stars or more (out of 10) and at least 1,000 votes by IMBb users to ensure the film’s quality. The result was more than 3,000 movies tabulated.

Interestingly, Clint Eastwood topped the list of actors smoking in scenes largely due to his spaghetti westerns at the beginning of his career — a habit the actor apparently stopped after playing vigilante cop Dirty Harry and every movie character thereafter. Betty Davis topped the list of female characters lighting up

Cigar smoking was the overall most popular smoking category (see Eastwood) in films — reaching a peak of 24% in 1973. Pipe smoking was consistently more popular than cigarette smoking, probably due to the 1964 Surgeon General’s report that claimed pipe smokers lived longer than cigarette smokers. Hint: They don’t.

While John Wayne admitted to a six-pack-a-day habit during his cancer-shortened life, contemporary actor Jon Hamm actually smoked fake cigarettes in his breakout role in “Mad Men,” including inhaling 74 cigarettes alone in the pilot episode.

Other facts: Smoking was most commonly (54%) found in movies with an ‘R’ rating, and comedies (29%), while largely absent in Disney and Netflix original titles, reflecting changing societal norms and more assertive healthcare campaigns.

Sling TV Entering Sports Wagering Market

Live sports gambling will soon have another player. Dish Network March 3 announced a partnership with DraftKings Sportsbook, the online platform that supplies game statistics, odds, fantasy sports and wagering.

The agreement calls for the first-of-its-kind DraftKings app integration on the Dish TV Hopper platform. The agreement also allows for subsequent DraftKings sportsbook and daily fantasy experiences to be available on Dish-owned online TV platform Sling TV and Boost Mobile in the future.

Online sports gambling is becoming a coveted feature among online TV services, including Fox Corp.’s Tubi, Disney-owned ESPN and FuboTV. The American Gaming Association estimates Americans bet $6.8 billion on last year’s Super Bowl, with an estimated $500 million bet online in this year’s Super Bowl .

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Dish satellite TV subscribers with an Internet-connected Hopper receiver will be able to access the DraftKings app to view betting odds and fantasy contests. They can initiate bets or contest entries with DraftKings directly from their TV, then set recordings and watch the live sports that correspond with those bets or fantasy teams. Placing bets is limited to customers living in states where sports betting is available to DraftKings account holders.

Once a bet or fantasy contest entry is initiated, customers will be prompted via text message through DraftKings-created technology to complete the transaction within the app on their mobile device. Once launched, Dish subs can initiate bets for NCAA basketball, NBA, and NHL from the app via Hopper, with additional features to come.

“Our deal with Dish TV and the technology behind it immerses customers within a next-generation viewership experience and reaches these fanbases in a completely new way,” said Paul Liberman, co-founder/president of product and technology at DraftKings.

Subs can open and use the app while watching any live, on-demand or recorded Dish TV content. DraftKings can be accessed via the Dish voice remote simply by saying “Launch DraftKings” or from the apps menu.


Sling TV Reverses Q4 Sub Loss, Still Down for Fiscal Year

Online TV market founder Sling TV Feb. 22 reported a gain of 16,000 subscribers for the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2020). That compared with a loss of 94,000 subs in the previous-year period. It was the second-consecutive quarterly subscriber gain after three quarters of losses. The Dish Network-owned subsidiary ended the fiscal year with 2.47 million subs, down 118,000 subs from the end of 2019.

Dish’s legacy satellite TV service lost 133,000 subs in the quarter, in addition to 578,000 in the year. The operator ended 2020 with 8.81 million subs compared with 9.4 million in 2019.

On the fiscal call, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen lamented the lost opportunities around Sling’s first-mover advantage in online TV.

“We stumbled a little there with the quality of the user experience,” Ergen said. “Our network was the best and the first, but we got a little complacent.”

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When Sling launched in early 2015, it was the first time a pay-TV operator had offered a standalone online TV service, including landmark access to ESPN outside the traditional cable bundle. The market, which quickly included DirecTV Now (now AT&T TV), Charter Spectrum TV Plus, YouTube TV, Philo, Fubo TV, and (now shuttered) Sony PlayStation Vue, among others, was seen as a strategic alternative to cord-cutting and the exploding over-the-top video ecosystem driven by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Interestingly, Hulu’s branded online TV platform, Hulu+Live TV, now leads the online TV market with more than 4 million subscribers, compared with 3.2 million at the end of 2019. Hulu is now the fifth-largest pay-TV operator in the country.

While Hulu’s growth is due in part to being bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ in a promotional $12.99 monthly package, the online TV market has upped availability of transactional VOD movies to drive subscriber growth and retention.

Parks Associates found that 60% of pay-TV subs (accounting for nearly half of U.S. broadband households) stream movies and TV shows from an online video service as part of their legacy subscription. Linear-TV subs subscribing to online video services has increased 50% in the past year.

Report: ‘Friends’ Most-Watched TV Show Over Thanksgiving Weekend

In addition to football, TV show re-runs dominate viewer interest around the Thanksgiving holiday, according to new data from USDish, a reseller of Dish Network. While movies dominate around Christmas, TV show episodes rank high among viewers over Thanksgiving, with “Friends” the most popular TV show. Of the 15 TV show episodes that ranked most-popular, 10 were “Friends” episodes.

In compiling its data, USDish analyzed the top 15 holiday episodes for each holiday using IMDb data. To qualify, each episode had to meet the following criteria: Contain the keywords “Thanksgiving,” “Christmas,” or “New Year’s Eve,” respectively; be produced between 1990 and 2020; have more than 1,500 IMDb votes; and achieve a rating of 7.5 and above.

“Once we narrowed down our search, we found each episode’s viewership count using the viewership archive on TV Listings,” wrote Travis Peterson, author of the study. “Then we ranked each episode from most popular to least-popular based on viewership.”

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To find the most-searched TV show in each state for November, December and January, respectively, USDish analyzed Google Trends data.

The study found that comedy and romance are hits around Thanksgiving, with more than 93% of the top episodes categorized as comedy. Thirteen out of the 15 TV episodes (87%) are also categorized as romance.

Apparently Thanksgiving is a perfect time for a little throwback TV. Seven out of the top 15 episodes aired in the ’90s, while six aired in the 2000s. The average running time of all episodes on the list is 24 minutes.


Sling TV Q3 Sub Growth Cools; Dish TV Sub Loss Increases

Dish Network Nov. 6 said it added 203,000 Sling TV subscribers during the three months ended Sept. 30, down 5.2% from the addition of 214,000 subs during the same period in 2019. This decrease in sub additions was primarily related to lower Sling TV activations, increased competition, including competition from other SVOD and live-linear OTT service providers, and delays and cancellations of sporting events as a result of COVID-19.

Dish ended the quarter with 2.46 million Sling TV subs, which is down 8.6% from 2.69 million subs a year ago.

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At the same time, Dish lost 87,000 legacy pay-TV subscribers, 32% more than a sub loss of 66,000 last year. This increase in subscriber losses primarily resulted from lower Dish subscriber activations, partially offset by a lower churn rate.

The Colorado-based satellite TV operator ended the period with just 8.96 million pay-TV subs, down almost 6% from 9.49 million subs the same time last year.