Dish Posts 815,000 Combined Q1 Pay-TV, Sling TV Sub Loss

The first fiscal quarter of 2022 was not a good one for Dish Network. The long-time satellite TV operator reported significant subscriber losses in both its legacy pay-TV business as well as pioneering online TV segment.

The company reported a first-quarter (ended March 31) loss of 693,000 legacy pay-TV subscribers, to end the period with 7.99 million paying subs. That compared with 8.68 million subs in the prior-year period. In its pioneering online TV business unit, Sling TV saw a sub loss of 122,000 to end the period with 2.25 million subs, compared with 2.37 million a year ago.

At the end of the quarter, Dish had 10.245 million combined pay-TV/online TV subscribers in the U.S.

The Sling TV sub loss is especially significant since the service was seen as a savior to the declining pay-TV industry since its launch in 2015. Instead, the online TV market is now led by Hulu + Live TV and Google TV, among others.

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Sling TV Introduces Half-Off Sale for New Customers

Sling TV is upgrading its offer for new customers, offering 50% off their first month.

The offer extends to base services Sling Orange ($35 per month), Sling Blue ($35 per month) or Sling Orange + Sling Blue ($50 per month). Customers will also be eligible for free DVR, one month free of Showtime and $5 off Starz for the first month. This offer replaces all other new customer offers.

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Sling TV is an app-based TV service allowing viewers to stream live television and on-demand content over the internet. Options include Channel Add-ons, Premiums Add-ons, DVR Plus and more.

Hulu, Paramount+ Help Up NCAA ‘Final Four’ Basketball Tournament Games to Highest Viewership in Five Years

The increasing distribution of live sports on subscription streaming video platforms is paying off in the ratings game. New data from Nielsen found that the April 3 “Final Four” thrilling victory by the University of North Carolina Tarheels over archrival Duke University in the semifinal of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament generated 16.3 million viewers on WarnerMedia’s TBS, TNT and TruTV cable networks, in addition to Hulu, Paramount+, Sling TV and YouTube TV streaming platforms.

That was the highest viewership for a Final Four game since 2017. In addition to contesting the first ever matchup in the men’s NCAA tournament between the legendary rivals, the game also featured retiring Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in his final game.

The tally is expected to grow after including out-of-home viewership.

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The other semifinal game, which saw the University of Kansas beat Villanova University April 2, averaged 10.3 million viewers, which was up 21% from the 2021 Saturday matchup between Baylor University and the University of Houston with 8.1 million viewers.

Last year’s Final Four matchup between UCLA and Gonzaga University attracted almost 15 million viewers on TV and alternative platforms.

Meanwhile, the numbers still pale from the 2015 semifinal matchup between the University of Wisconsin and University of Kentucky that was viewed by more than 22 million people.

Dish Lost 595,000 Pay-TV Subs in 2021, Sling TV Flat

Satellite TV operator Dish Feb. 24 disclosed it lost 595,000 pay-TV subscribers in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021, to end the fiscal period with 8.2 million subs, compared with 8.8 million at the end of 2020.

Dish’s online TV platform Sling TV ended the year with 2.48 million subs, up slightly from 2.47 million subs at the end of 2020. The pioneering platform, which was the first to offer ESPN outside the legacy pay-TV bundle when launching 2015, added just 12,000 subs in 2021.

Dish attributed the declines and market softness to the lack of consumer demand and channel removals, including Tegna (which carries NBC), as well as increased competitive pressures, including aggressive short-term introductory pricing and bundled offers combining broadband, video and/or wireless services and other discounted promotional offers, live-linear OTT service providers, and direct-to-consumer offerings by certain of our programmers.

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Dish competitors include Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Disney+, ESPN+, Paramount+, HBO Max, STARZ, Peacock,
FuboTV and Philo.

“We continue to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers,” Dish said a regulatory filing.

Sling TV Added on Vizio Smartcast TVs

The Sling TV app is now available on Vizio SmartCast TVs.

The cable alternative comes with a three-day free trial on SmartCast. 

Sling features live content with free channels such as ABC News Live and premium cable networks such as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT, plus more than 150,000 on-demand shows and movies.

“Delivering on our commitment to provide endless entertainment options and enhanced consumer experiences, we are delighted to provide SmartCast users with access to premium channels like ESPN and Showtime as well as live sports, news and entertainment through the SLING TV streaming app,” Katherine Pond, VP of business development at Vizio, said in a statement.

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“With home screen access on Vizio SmartCast, we are able to deliver our premier service to millions of users across America,” Seth Van Sickel, SVP of product and operations at Sling TV, said in a statement. “Sling continues to be the most convenient way to watch the shows you love when you want, where you want, and on your terms across a wide breadth of device options.”

Sling TV joins streaming services such as Apple TV+, Discovery+, Disney+, HBOMax, Hulu, Netflix, Peacock and Prime Video already available on Vizio SmartCast. Vizio SmartCast also includes support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built-in, allowing viewers to stream, control, and share content from their phone, tablet or laptop directly onto the big screen.

Dish Adds 117,000 Q3 Sling TV Subs, Down 42% From a Year Ago

Dish Nov. 4 said it added 117,000 Sling TV subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That compared with the addition of approximately 203,000 net Slings subs  during the same period in 2020. The decrease was primarily related to higher subscriber disconnects, partially offset by higher Sling subscriber activations.

“We continue to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers,” Dish said in a statement.

Dish, which is transitioning into wireless spectrum, broadband and telecommunications (Boost Mobile) businesses, ended the quarter with 10.9 million total pay-TV subs, including 8.4 million satellite customers and 2.5 million Sling subs. Dish has lost 541,000 pay-TV subs year-over-year.

Regardless, pay-TV revenue increased 9% in the quarter to $3.22 billion, from revenue of $3.19 billion a year ago. Operating income dropped 13% to $699 million, from $803 million in the previous-year period.

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.

Cinedigm Launches Three Channels on Sling TV

Cinedigm has placed three of its channels on Sling TV: the family friendly Dove Channel, pop culture channel CONtv and documentary channel Docurama.

Docurama is a streaming service dedicated to bringing audiences acclaimed, cutting-edge documentaries. Popular titles include Anthony Bourdain: A Cook’s Tour, Beatles: How The Beatles Changed The World and Kobe: The Life of a Legend.

The Dove Channel is a source for family friendly content, feature films and television titles suitable for all audiences. It features comedy classics such as “The Little Rascals,” young adult series “H20: Just Add Water” and “Dance Academy,” and faith favorites such as The Ultimate Gift.

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CONtv: carries a diverse range of film and television series focusing on the action/thriller, horror, anime and sci-fi/fantasy genres, including films featuring superstars such as Milo Gibson and Peter Facinelli (Gangster Land) and anime classics such as “Yu-Gi-Oh!”

Sling TV delivers live and on-demand television to compatible internet-connected devices through monthly subscriptions starting at $35 per month. Through its genre-based “Extras,” customers can pick their personal channel lineup.

“Since its inception, Sling TV has been at the forefront of live TV streaming,” Jennifer Soltesz, VP of business development and strategy at Cinedigm, said in a statement. “Working with Sling TV not only allows us to reach a diverse, new audience, but it gives us a partner with the same forward-thinking drive. We can’t wait to show these new customers the amazing networks Cinedigm has to offer.”

Sling TV Bowing New Interface

Sling TV has launched a new app in beta that features a personalized discovery engine and new interface features.

The new app is available to select customers using Amazon Fire TV devices and will continue rolling out across all Sling TV compatible devices throughout the year, including availability on Roku devices this summer.

“Our goal with the new app is clear: to make our customer experience as compelling as the extraordinary live content we deliver,” Michael Schwimmer, group president of Sling TV, said in a statement. “After a year of talking to customers and working with our design and advanced engineering teams, we’re happy to roll out the new Sling TV app to deliver the best in live sports, news and entertainment, at the same unbeatable low price point. Sling TV has always been a leader in the industry known for innovation and value. With our new app, customers will know Sling TV as a first-class streaming experience.”

The new design is the most comprehensive update in Sling TV’s history, according to the service. Key changes include:

  • A new home screen with a new section that spotlights movies and shows chosen specifically for the user;
  • A reimagined guide, making it easier to mark favorite channels, filter and A-Z sort the guide order, quickly record a show and explore channel details;
  • A new, dedicated DVR tab that allows users to easily watch and manage all recorded content in one place;
  • The ability to pause, rewind, fast-forward and record live TV, and jump between recently watched channels without missing a moment;
  • A new, streamlined navigation on the left that makes it easier to discover content and allow users to quickly see on-demand content or browse recordings;
  • A new Smart Search feature that narrows down the options, allows users to find previous searches with just one click and instantly shows results as users type; and
  • Enhanced discovery and navigation tools for the service’s 150,000-plus on-demand TV shows, movies and more.

 

“When we began the process of reimagining the app, we started with the customer. After immense testing and direct feedback across our customer base, we’ve developed a design that gives the user an effortless experience,” Jon Lin, VP of product for Sling TV, said in a statement. “If a streaming app is done right, it should be practically invisible, allowing the user to get to the most relevant content quickly and easily — the new SLING TV experience does just that.”

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In addition, the home screen spotlights a mix of personalized recommendations and editorial curation, the dedicated DVR tab has a trash bin making it easy to delete and manage storage capacity, and the reimagined guide allows users to expand program view to get more details without a single click.

For a limited time, new and returning customers can take advantage of a discount offer — $10 for their first month of Sling TV and 200 hours of free DVR Plus (a $30 discount).

For more information, visit sling.com/newapp.

Is Shine Off Online Pay-Television?

Lost in the hoopla of Disney+ surpassing 103 million subscribers in the second quarter (ended April 3) was the reality that the online TV market leader, Hulu + Live TV, lost 200,000 subscribers during the same quarter. The 5% decline from 4 million subs likely attributed in part to a $10 price hike Disney imposed upon the platform last December.

But Hulu isn’t alone. Sling TV, which Dish Network launched in 2015, lost 100,000 subs in the quarter to 2.37 million. AT&T TV, formerly DirecTV Now and AT&T TV Now, reportedly declined to around 650,000 subscribers in early 2020 — about two-thirds fewer subs when the service launched in 2018.

And Google-owned YouTube TV saw its 3 million-sub base unchanged over the past four months, while T-Mobile this year threw in the towel on its upstart TVision platform with about 100,000 subs. Sony’s PlayStation Vue service shuttered in January 2020 after almost five years of sluggish sub growth.

That’s a trend in the wrong direction considering TDG Research in December 2020 predicted strong growth for the 6-year-old market.

“The number of virtual pay-TV households will increase five-fold by the end of the next decade, topping 24 million by 2030,” senior analyst Joel Espelien wrote in a December 2020 note. “Importantly, this growth will come almost exclusively at the cost of legacy subscriptions.”

Indeed, fuboTV and Philo have added subscribers, the former tacking on 42,550 subs to top 590,000 subs in the quarter. Philo says that as of August 2020, it had 750,000 subs.

Overall, the top publicly reporting Internet-delivered pay-TV services combined for about 6.7 million subs — less than 10% of the top pay-TV providers with about 78.7 million combined subs.

“A whole generation of customers likely viewed [online TV] quizzically, as a solution to a problem they didn’t have,” MoffettNathanson wrote in a note last year. “The real issue was the grid. Not the user interface grid, by the way, but instead the very idea of a [program] schedule. Why would anyone want to view entertainment content on a schedule, much less someone else’s schedule?”