Facebook Adds Netflix, Zoom to Portal TV

Facebook Oct. 6 announced it is adding Netflix and social media communications app Zoom to its Portal TV platform. The platform is similar to Amazon Channels and Apple Channels, affording users direct access to third-party SVOD services.

Portal TV, which requires separate SVOD subscriptions, currently offers a range of video streaming services, including Amazon Prime VideoShowtime and Sling TV.

Facebook is also introducing a new remote that features one-touch buttons for Prime Video, Facebook Watch and Netflix, among other entertainment apps, for Portal device users. The remote begins shipping with Portal TV Oct. 6 from portal.facebook.com and will be in stores in the coming weeks.

Featuring high-fidelity sound and an AI-powered Smart Camera for hands-free video calling, Zoom on Portal can connect up to 25 people on a screen.

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Portal devices range in price from $129 with an 8-inch HD display, to $279 for a 15.6-inch HD display.

Sling TV Bows ‘Watch Party’ Featuring Voice, Text

With most TV viewers multitasking on social media, Dish Network’s online TV streaming service, Sling TV, Sept. 23 launched a new feature in beta, “Sling Watch Party,” which enables subscribers to connect via voice and text with non-subscribing friends and family in remote locations to stream programming together — a first for the live television industry.

Through a special beta preview of Sling Watch Party ending Sept. 30, invited guests may attend a Watch Party simply by creating a Sling TV account.

“We know that for so many, it’s not just about what you are watching, it’s who you are watching with,” Jon Lin, VP of product, said in a statement. “We could all use more time together to enjoy our favorite sports and entertainment, which is why we created this new feature.”

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Sling Watch Party features include:

  • Video and text chat: Connect in real-time with other SLING Watch Party guests while viewing a program, via video or text chat.
  • Audio and visual controls: All participants have full control over their own video camera, the volume of their individual content stream and volume of video chat streams received from other participants.
  • Player controls: Slingers hosting a Watch Party can manage player controls, including play, pause and rewind for on-demand programming.
  • Sling TV programming: Choose from live or on-demand content available in Sling Orange, Sling Blue, Sling Latino and Sling International services, or any Sling TV Extra, depending on a customer’s current subscription.

 

The feature is available on Google Chrome web browsers and allows subscribers to invite up to three guests to for shared TV viewing.

To host a “watch party,” sign in on sling.com via Google Chrome web browser. Select any eligible live or on-demand title from a Sling TV ribbon; a Watch Party may be created up to 60 minutes prior to air time, for live program. Click “create watch party” from the title’s information screen. Invite up to three guests to join via a unique, shareable link or email. Click “start watching” when the selected title is scheduled to begin.

Dish Loses 96,000 Pay-TV Subs in Q2, Including 56,000 Sling TV Accounts

Dish Network Aug. 7 said it lost 96,000 pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter (ended June 30), including 56,000 Sling TV paid members. That compared with a loss of 79,000 pay-TV subs during the previous-year period, in addition to a gain of 48,000 Sling TV customers.

The company closed the quarter with 11.27 million pay-TV subscribers, including 9.02 million Dish TV subs and 2.25 million Sling TV subs. The online TV service has now lost more than 200,000 subs in the previous 12 months of the fiscal year, ending the prior-year period with 2.47 million subs.

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The satellite TV operator attributed the subscriber losses to ongoing economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, including unemployment and loss of live sports programming. Sling TV launched in 2015 as the first online TV service, including the first to offer ESPN as part of non-traditional pay-TV bundle.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption in certain commercial segments served by Dish, including the hospitality and airline industries,” the company said in a statement.

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Dish said increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and online TV service providers have negatively impacted sub growth. Indeed, with the exception of Sony killing PlayStation Vue, the online TV market now includes AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Philo, FuboTV and Hulu with Live TV, among others.

Dish reported quarterly profit of $452 million on revenue of $3.19 billion. That compared with profit of $317 million on revenue of $3.21 billion in the previous-year period.

Sling TV Feature Integrates Over-the-Air Broadcast Channels Into Guide on LG Smart TVs

Sling TV announced a feature that integrates free, local over-the-air (OTA) broadcast channels into the Sling TV guide on 2020 LG Smart televisions with webOS 5.0, without the need to switch inputs or applications.

The channel tuning feature, available on all 2020 LG OLED and LG NanoCell TVs, allows consumers to access their local broadcast networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS, directly within the Sling TV app when connected to an OTA antenna.

“The best value in TV today is Sling TV plus free live locals,” Jon Lin, VP of product at Sling TV, said in a statement. “We’re making it easier than ever to watch free local channels directly within the Sling TV app, making 2020 LG Smart televisions an amazing value for those who appreciate a quality viewing experience, live local programming and OTT content from Sling TV.”

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To begin watching local broadcast networks in the Sling TV experience, owners of compatible LG Smart TVs connect an OTA antenna directly to their television and begin the one-time channel scanning process. To scan for channels, consumers access the TV’s settings tab, select “All Settings,” “Channels,” “Channel Tuning” and finally “Auto Tuning.”

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Once Sling TV receives the tuner’s signal, all available local channels will appear within the interface like any other channel. Consumers can further customize their Sling TV experience by filtering for local channels within the guide or adding local channels to “My Channels.”

For more information on the integration with LG Smart TVs, visit Sling.com/LG or the Sling TV Help Center for a step-by-step setup guide.

The average American household today can receive 44 local OTA channels at no cost, resulting in hundreds of dollars in annual savings, according to Sling TV. Cord cutters interested in learning which live locals are available in their area can now use the Sling TV local channel finder tool. To search, type in a street name and zip code and click “View My Locals” to see a comprehensive list of channel results for any desired location in the United States.

Sling TV, Dish Add AMC Plus Streaming Service

AMC Networks July 20 announced an agreement with Dish Network that will make its AMC Plus SVOD service available on Dish’s online TV platform Sling TV.

Launched in June, AMC Plus ($6.99 monthly) affords subscribers access to all AMC Networks programming, including “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul,” among others.

The Sling deal is the second carriage agreement following AMC Plus’ initial availability on Comcast Cable’s Xfinity and broadband-only Flex platforms. Sling introduced the online TV market in 2015.

AMC Plus bundle also includes series from AMC, IFC and Sundance TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, IFC Films Unlimited, which offers a collection of theatrically released titles from IFC Films, among other sources.

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“This new bundle, available for the first time to Dish and Sling TV customers, was designed to offer fans of our programming greater choice and an enhanced customer experience, as we work with Dish and Sling TV to embrace the new ways in which viewers consume content today,” Josh Reader, president of distribution and development at AMC Networks, said in a statement.

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Sling TV Offers One-Year Price Guarantee

Sling TV has instituted a one-year price guarantee for all new and existing customers as online competitors, such as FuboTV and YouTube TV, have announced price hikes.

“In the current economic environment, many Americans are taking a hard look at their budgets,” read a July 1 company blog from Michael Schwimmer, group president, Sling TV. “Sling TV knows how difficult it can be to see any bill go up while trying to make ends meet or saving for the future.”

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For customers who sign up for Sling TV or who have an existing account by Aug. 1, 2020, Sling TV will guarantee their current price on any Sling TV service through Aug. 1, 2021.

“We believe now is not the time to make our customers choose between staying informed and entertained, and putting dinner on the table,” he wrote. “Our hope is this one-year price guarantee will bring a sense of much needed stability in a time that feels uncertain to us all.”

Other offers include a 14-day free trial through July 6 and a free AirTV 2 with an OTA antenna for prepaying for three months of Sling TV (the combo allows access to local over-the-air broadcast networks).

UPDATE: Amazon Prime Video Eyeing Live Television — a Non-Starter

Amazon Prime Video was reported to be the latest SVOD considering offering ad-supported live television to subscribers — similarly to Hulu with Live TV and online TV services such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, The Roku Channel and AT&T TV Now, among others.

An Amazon representative June 24 disclosed that reports about the e-commerce behemoth recruiting people on social media with live TV experience, including those with executive experience launching online TV, have nothing to do with launching a proprietary online TV platform.

“There is nothing new here as we already offer hundreds of live TV stations around the world today,” the rep said in an email.

The rep said job postings referenced are for the teams currently supporting third-party live TV stations via Prime Video Channels, and include linear channels such as CBS All Access and Showtime in the U.S., Stack TV in Canada, Eurosport in Germany and U.K., among others.

“Customers who sign up for these type of channel subscriptions already get access to their 24/7 station stream,” the rep said.

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The confusion started when media reports surfaced about LinkedIn post such as this: “We are seeking an experienced product manager for the Prime Video Linear TV team to redefine how customers watch 24/7 linear broadcast TV content,” read the listing. “Linear TV enables customers to watch 24/7 streams of their favorite TV stations airing programs including sports, news, movies, award shows, special events and TV shows.”

Prime Video heretofore has avoided live TV with the exception of its “NFL Thursday Night Football” and English Premier League soccer webcasts, preferring SVOD and transactional VOD and third-party OTT platforms via Prime Channels.

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Online site Protocol, citing personnel familiar with the situation, had reported Amazon was seeking to offer individual live-TV channels as opposed to the conventional bundle. Indeed, when Dish Network in 2015 bowed the first standalone online TV platform, Sling TV, it was able for the first time to market ESPN without the traditional pay-TV bundle. ESPN at the time was the most expensive pay-TV channel offered.

Sling TV, which once led all platforms in subscribers, has been steadily losing subs. And Sony Interactive Entertainment in January shuttered PlayStation Vue, citing a lack of consumer demand.

“Unfortunately, the highly competitive pay-TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected,” Sony said in a statement.

Sling TV Gets New Group President

Michael Schwimmer has been named group president of Sling TV, following the departure of Warren Schlichting, Dish Network Corp. announced.

Schwimmer, who returned to Dish in June 2019 to lead international business development and strategy, will report to Dish CEO Erik Carlson.

During his career at Dish, which began in 1996, Schwimmer led the company’s marketing, programming and media sales organizations and played a key role in launching the Dish International and DishLATINO brands. In addition to his work on Sling TV’s international business, he honed his over-the-top expertise at Fuse Media, where he served as president and CEO. In his new role, Schwimmer will be responsible for all aspects of the Sling TV business. He has also assumed responsibility for Dish Media Sales.

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Kevin Arrix, SVP, Dish Media Sales, will now report to Schwimmer, and will continue to be responsible for the company’s advertising sales, analytics and operations.

Sling TV Offering Free Month of Epix, Showtime and Starz

After losing 110,000 subscribers in the previous 12 months, Dish Network’s Sling TV is launching “Premium Pass,” which gives new and existing subs 30 days free access to MGM-owned Epix, ViacomCBS’s Showtime and Lionsgate-owned Starz programming.

Launched in 2015, Sling Blue and Orange ($30 each) program tiers feature 50+ channels — including A&E, AMC, Bravo, CNN, E!, Fox News, FX, HGTV, HLN, MSNBC, and TLC, among others. The Premium Pass offer is now included across all Sling TV services: Sling Blue ($30/mo.), Sling Orange ($30/mo.) or Sling Blue + Sling Orange ($45/mo.).

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Premium programming includes “Monday Rom-Coms”: My Best Friend’s Wedding and Something’s Gotta Give (Showtime). “Wednesday Westerns”: The Kidand True Grit (Epix). “Friday Families”: Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Starz).

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Global Pay-TV to Add 35 Million Subs by 2025 — Driven by Online TV

Pay-TV consumption in the United States is declining, but globally, there’s still life in the distribution channel — thanks to online TV.

New data from London-based Digital TV Research suggests there will be 35 million new pay-TV subs through 2025, with the global base reaching 1.06 billion across more than 138 countries.

Driving growth is online TV, which includes platforms such as Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, AT&T TV Now and YouTube TV in the United States. IPTV will add 84 million subs through 2025, topping 391 million. Online TV will grow its global market share in pay-TV from 30% in 2019 to 37% in 2025.

Satellite TV, which is projected to lose another 4 million subs through 2025, will generate 20% of pay-TV subs, down from 21% in 2019.
Cable will decline 7%, accounting for 40% of all pay-TV subs by 2025 — a near 50% drop from 74% market share in 2010. There will be 430 million cable TV subs (both analog and digital) by 2025, 101 million fewer than in 2010.

“Our forecasts are based on the assumption that professional sports will restart in August following relaxations in the COVID-19 lockdown,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement. “If this does not happen, then pay-TV will experience considerable churn.”