Sling TV Offering Free, à La Carte Programming Without Subscription

Sling TV June 28 became the first online TV service to offer free content, à la carte channels, plus transactional live events and digital movie purchases, without requiring a base monthly subscription.

The new service is available to returning Sling customers on Roku devices. The updated options will expand to additional Sling-supported streaming media devices in the near future.

“The new Sling evolves the experience even further by providing access to great content without anchoring customers to a base subscription,” Warren Schlichting, president of Sling TV, said in a statement.

Upon re-opening the Sling TV app, former subs can access more than 100 hours of free TV shows and movies without restarting their subscription. Ribbons within the “My TV” interface dedicated to free shows and movies include, “Wrecked,” “The Detour,” “Good Behavior,” and “Flip or Flop,” among others.

Users can purchase select channels in an à la carte fashion and watch them through the Sling TV app without a subscription.

Channels available as à la carte subscriptions range from Showtime, to on-demand channels and sports packages.

Additions include Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, Outside TV Features and Stingray Karaoke, joining à la carte on-demand channels CuriosityStream, Pantaya and Up Faith & Family.

Each channel can be purchased month-to-month and accessed through the Sling TV app alongside free shows and other purchased content.

Monthly pricing for à la carte channels includes Showtime ($10); CuriosityStream ($6); Stingray Karaoke ($7); Dove Channel ($5); Outside TV Features ($5); Up Faith & Family ($5); Pantaya ($6), and NBA League Pass: $28.99

Sling TV was the first online TV service to offer pay-per-view (PPV) events, and has presented more than 15 events since 2017, including UFC fights and boxing matches.

Consumers can now access PPV events as a one-time purchase without purchasing a Sling TV subscription. Users can choose to use Sling TV solely for their PPV events or combine their PPV purchases with any of Sling TV’s base subscriptions.

In addition to the PPV UFC and boxing matches, users also have the option to purchase digital movies.

 

Dish Network Owner Eyeing U.K. Satellite TV Market?

NEWS ANALYSIS — On the heels of 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Co. and Comcast collectively coveting U.K. satellite TV operator Sky, Denver-based EchoStar Corp. is also gazing across the pond.

Headed by Charlie Ergen, majority owner of Dish Network, EchoStar reportedly made an offer for Inmarsat, a London-based satellite telecommunications company with more than $1.4 billion in revenue in 2017.

While Inmarsat’s stock price jumped 14% following the undisclosed financial offer, the company considered it below its market value and rejected it.

“It very significantly undervalued Inmarsat and its stand-alone prospects,” the company said in a June 8 statement. “The board remains highly confident in the independent strategy and prospects of Inmarsat.”

Unlike Disney, Fox and Comcast’s interests in Sky’s 10 million pay-TV subscribers, Ergen is more interested in Inmarsat’s radio spectrum portfolio.

As media distribution increasingly becomes wireless, spectrum plays a key role in how that distribution channel works. Most major industries rely on wireless technologies that depend on spectrum access to function, including cellular, broadcast and satellite.

In the United States, regulatory responsibility for the radio spectrum is divided between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

In 2017, Ergen reportedly spent $6.2 billion acquiring spectrum rights in government auctions – second only to T-Mobile. Dish reportedly owns about $35 billion worth of spectrum rights in the U.S., despite not yet operating a wireless network – as do Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Comcast.

Cellular distribution was one of the reasons Dish acquired the bankrupt Blockbuster Video chain in 2011. It had hoped to use the video store’s retail footprint to jumpstart branded and third-party mobile devices. That strategy stalled in 2013 when Dish shuttered the remaining Blockbuster-owned stores.

In 2015, Dish Launched Sling TV, the industry’s first online TV service. With more than 2 million subscribers, Sling TV represents Dish’s future as traditional linear TV declines.

With AT&T launching DirecTV Now, Charter operating Spectrum TV Plus, and Disney bowing ESPN+, Ergen has voiced interest in launching a wireless network by 2020 to better accommodate Sling TV to mobile consumers.

A year ago, Comcast did just that bowing Xfinity Mobile – a wireless service targeting the cabler’s 25 million broadband subscribers.

“Wireless is hyper competitive,” Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said last year.“We will measure our success very differently than other wireless carriers. It will be designed to support the core cable business.”

Indeed, Ergen has similar designs involving Dish Network, and could license his spectrum portfolio or use it as leverage to entice merger and acquisition offers from third parties. Last December, Ergen stepped down as CEO of Dish to focus on wireless. Maybe that will include revisiting the Inmarsat offer.

Sling TV Adds ‘Cheddar Big News’

Sling TV, the Dish Networks online TV platform, June 7 announced it would begin streaming Cheddar Big News, an upstart general news network focused on headlines and top stories.

The network covers news of the day, human interest stories, weather, science and sports. It includes updates on business, politics and government from its Washington D.C. office and entertainment from Cheddar’s Los Angeles location. Cheddar claims its political coverage is neutral.

“We have always been supportive of Cheddar’s vision to disrupt the way news is delivered, which is why we launched the initial [Cheddar] financial news channel on Sling TV in 2016,” Ankit Bishnoi, VP of content acquisition and strategy at Sling TV, said in a statement.

Cheddar content partners include AccuWeather, FanSided, Stadium and VSiN.

“Sling TV … saw the vision and bet on our team and content before anyone else,” said Daniel Schneider, VP of business development of Cheddar. “They are extremely innovative.”

Cheddar Big News, which is also available on Philo and YouTube TV, recently signed Coke as its first corporate sponsor.

Sling TV Tops 2.3 Million Subscribers

Pioneering online TV service Sling TV May 8 disclosed it added 91,000 subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31). It ended the period with more than 2.3 million subs.

The service, launched in 2015 by Dish Network, was the first to offer standalone access to premium pay-TV channels, including ESPN, with a long-term contract.

Sling TV has been joined by PlayStation Vue, Spectrum TV Plus, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Hulu Live, to create an online TV market aimed at attracting cord-cutter and millennials.

Indeed, Dish said it lost approximately 94,000 subscribers in the quarter, compared to a decline of about 143,000 in the previous-year period.

The comparison is misleading considering that without Sling, Dish lost approximately 185,000 pay-TV subs. The satellite TV operator closed the quarter with 10.8 million subscribers compared to more than 11 million last year. When combined with Sling TV, Dish’s total pay-TV sub base topped 13.1 million compared to 13.5 million subscribers at the end of first quarter 2017.

Lone bright spot: Dish’s average monthly subscriber churn rate (subs not renewing service) was 1.47% compared to 1.92% for first quarter 2017.

 

Dish Anywhere Available on Android TV Devices

The Dish Anywhere app is now available on Android TV devices, Dish announced.

While Dish Anywhere has been available on Android mobile devices since 2013, customers can now use Android TV media players and smart TVs for the first time to access their Dish programming, either at home or on the go, according to Dish.

Dish Anywhere gives Hopper customers the ability to watch 100 percent of their live and recorded content, plus thousands of on-demand titles, from any location on internet-connected mobile devices, including smart phones, tablets and computers, and televisions via Amazon Fire TV and now Android TV.

“Media players provide easy access to video content, so it’s no wonder one-third of U.S. broadband households own these devices,” said Niraj Desai, Dish VP of product management. “By expanding the Dish Anywhere app to Android TV, we’re giving our customers more ways to view their content on devices they already own, at no additional cost.”

Dish Anywhere can be accessed on Android TV devices, including media players such as the AirTV Player, Mi Box and NVIDIA Shield TV, and Sharp Aquos and Sony Bravia smart TVs. Dish set-top boxes that give customers access to live, recorded and on-demand content on Dish Anywhere include Hopper 3, Hopper with Sling, and first-generation Hopper or compatible ViP receivers connected to a Sling Adapter. All Dish customers may use Dish Anywhere to watch on-demand titles.

To watch Dish Anywhere on Android TV, consumer can download the free app from the Google Play Store.

Dish Activates Netflix on Hopper Duo Set-Top

As expected, Dish Network has activated the Netflix app in its Hopper Duo set-top box enabling subscribers direct access to the subscription streaming video behemoth.

Similar to other third-party installs, direct access to the streaming video pioneer requires a separate subscription.

In January, Dish rolled out the Hopper Duo, a dual-tuner HD set-top for one- and two-TV households. Hopper Duo packages the most essential features of Dish’s Hopper 3 for consumers with smaller-scale entertainment setups.

Features include a 500 GB hard drive for up to 125 hours of HD DVR recording; compatibility with Amazon Alexa voice control; universal search; Bluetooth audio support via adapter; picture-in-picture viewing; remote finder; and apps like game finder, Pandora, Dish on-demand – and now Netflix.

The average number of pay-TV set-top devices per household in the United States is 1.7, according to the Leichtman Research Group.

Leichtman found that 69% of domestic TV households have at least one TV connected to the Internet via a smart TV set, a stand-alone device (like Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV stick, set-top box, or Apple TV), a video game system, and/or a Blu-ray Disc player – up from 50% in 2014, and 24% in 2010.

Kagan: Pay-TV Sub Loss Softened in Fourth Quarter 2017

The pay-TV business model may be under siege, but subscriber losses actually slowed for traditional multichannel video providers in the fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017 – while declining for the full year, according to new data compiled by Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Combined cable, satellite TV (Dish Network and DirecTV) and telecom multichannel subscriptions fell to 94 million, including 91.1 million residential customers. Combined, cable, satellite and telecom subs are now down approximately 7.4 million from their peak in 2012.

The total multichannel count, including the top two virtual service providers Sling TV and DirecTV Now, is at 97.3 million.

Cable operators lost an estimated 986,411 video subscribers in 2017, more than twice the 2016 drop. That broke the sector’s three-year streak of decelerating video subscriber losses.

The telecoms (AT&T, Verizon) slowed their net subscriber losses for a third consecutive quarter. The sector shed 903,262 subscribers in 2017 to end the year at 10.6 million.

The satellite sector was down nearly 1.7 million subscribers in 2017 – the biggest annual loss on record, as DirecTV joined Dish Network in posting traditional subscriber declines.

Sling TV Updates Roku Navigation

Dish Network-owned Sling TV has launched new updates on Roku devices for easier navigation.

With in-app upgrades, customers can now add extras and premium channels to their account within the app by selecting their desired content from the in-app upgrades ribbon under “Add Channels & More” on the My TV screen.

Customers can now add on-demand channels to MyChannels, including Nat Geo Wild, Fandor, as well as on-demand content from NBC and Fox for Sling Blue customers who do not live in a market where linear content is available.

Favorite channels (indicated by a heart in the guide) are now shown first at the top of the “Grid Guide” and on the left of the “Channel Guide” and the new “Micro Guide.”

The company has reduced the size of the guide (called the “Micro Guide”) that appears while watching a show, so it takes up less of the screen. The full guide is still available by pressing “down” on the remote’s D-pad when watching a title.

Sling TV has changed the full-screen video navigation, so now pushing “up” on the D-pad will bring up the “Micro Guide” and pushing “down” on the D-pad will now bring up the old guide.

When pressing the “Exit” button on the remote, customers will now see a pop-up giving them the option to go back to their show or movie instead of leaving Sling TV.

To aid binge-viewing, Sling TV has updated the player view so when customers are watching an on-demand title, the app will automatically go back to the franchise page of the show they watched.

The changes are detailed on Sling TV’s blog.

Separately, Dish has selected The Richards Group as its new creative agency of record. The Dallas-based Richards Group was chosen following a comprehensive agency review.

“The Richards Group brings to the table a history of successful campaigns, breakthrough creative and a unique set of capabilities necessary to take the Dish brand forward,” Jay Roth, CMO and SVP of Dish, said in a statement. “Throughout the agency review process, Dish and The Richards Group discovered natural synergies between our two founder-led organizations, and we’re eager to bring the results of this partnership to market.”

Pay-TV Operators Lost Nearly 1.5 Million Subs in 2017

Domestic pay-TV representing about 95% of the market lost about 1.49 million net video subscribers in 2017, compared to a pro forma loss of about 760,000 subscribers in 2016, according to new data from Leichtman Research Group. Traditional pay-TV services (not including Internet-delivered) lost about 3 million subs in 2017, compared to a loss of about 1.9 million subs in 2016.

The pay-TV providers account for 92.2 million subscribers — with the top six cable companies having about 48.1 million video subs, satellite TV services 31.5 million subscribers, telecoms 9.2 million subs, and online TV platforms with 3.4 million subscribers.

Leichtman said the top six cable companies lost about 660,000 video subs compared to a loss of 275,000 subs in 2016.

In 2017, the top cable providers cumulatively lost 1.4% of video subscribers — compared to a loss of 0.6% in 2016. Satellite TV services lost about 1.55 million subs in 2017 — compared to a loss of about 40,000 subs in 2016. DirecTV lost 554,000 subs compared to a gain of 1.22 million subs in 2016.

In 2017, DBS services cumulatively lost 4.7% of video subscribers — compared to a loss 0.1% in 2016

The top telephone providers lost about 885,000 video subscribers in 2017 — compared to a loss of about 1.59 million subs. AT&T U-verse lost 624,000 subs in 2017, compared to a loss of 1.35 million subs.

In 2017, the top Telcos cumulatively lost 8.7% of video subs, compared to a loss of 13.6% in 2016. The top (publicly reporting) Internet-delivered services added about 1.6 million subs in 2017, compared to 1.14 million net adds in 2016.

Subscribers to the top Internet-delivered services increased by 90% in 2017.

“Satellite TV services had more combined net losses in 2017 than in any previous year, yet these losses were offset by gains from their Internet-delivered flanker brands, such as DirecTV Now and Sling TV,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “Overall, the top pay-TV services lost 1.6% of subscribers in 2017 compared to a loss of 0.8% in 2016.”

 

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at
End of 4Q 2017
Net Adds in
2017
Cable Companies
Comcast 22,357,000 (151,000)
Charter 16,997,000 (239,000)
Altice 3,405,500 (129,000)
Mediacom 821,000 (14,000)
Cable ONE* 283,001 (37,245)
Other major private company** 4,200,000 (90,000)
Total Top Cable 48,063,501 (660,245)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DIRECTV 20,458,000 (554,000)
DISH TV^ 11,030,000 (995,000)
Total DBS 31,488,000 (1,549,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,619,000 (75,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,657,000 (624,000)
Frontier 961,000 (184,000)
Total Top Phone 9,237,000 (883,000)
Internet-Delivered
Sling TV^^ 2,212,000 711,000
DIRECTV NOW 1,155,000 888,000
Total Top Internet-Delivered 3,367,000 1,599,000
Total Top Providers 92,155,501 (1,493,245)

Sling TV Gets New Ad Agency, Bows New Marketing Campaign

Sling TV March 12 announced it has a new ad agency of record – underscoring concern its TV spots with tough guy actor Danny Trejo could be over.

Indeed, Dish Network’s pioneering online TV service with more than 2 million subscribers bowed a new multimedia marketing campaign, “We Are Slingers,” positioning Sling TV as a flexible live streaming service providing more choice and control than any other over-the-top (OTT) provider.

“Slinging is about breaking norms and connecting people with TV that satisfies through choice and control at a reasonable price; it’s a way of life,” Colleen Sugarman, head of marketing at Sling TV, said in a statement.

In addition to the commercials, elements of the campaign include a dedicated landing page, a new look and feel for the sling.com homepage, digital, mobile, new media and out-of-home ads, paid and organic social posts, YouTube videos, pre-roll and OTT video ads, paid search, in-device promotions on Sling TV supported devices and other direct-to-consumer promotions.

Additional spots will roll out to the general market in the coming months.

“We’re competing for attention not just with our client’s competitors, but with everything people are consuming as content,” said Karen Costello, chief creative officer at The Martin Agency. “The cheeky misdirect and play on the name is super sticky and a great way for Sling TV to be part of the conversation about TV ‘lifestyle’ viewing options.”

Sugarman said Sling TV needed an agency that could help inform consumers how the platform is the best way to watch live TV.

“The Martin Agency’s strong history of navigating highly competitive industries to successfully deliver for their clients made them the ideal choice,” she said.

Sling’s previous ad spots – created by media/digital network Society – focused on Trejo, whose lengthy career as TV and movie villain was underscored in a short but memorable role in “Breaking Bad,” threatening anyone who didn’t break from pay-TV.