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?”

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.

Sling TV Narrows Online Subscriber Loss

Dish Network’s online TV platform 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.

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The decrease in Sling sub losses was primarily related to lower subscriber disconnects resulting from Dish focusing on acquiring and retaining higher-quality (i.e. more expensive) subs, partially offset by lower Sling TV subscriber activations.

“We continue to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers [such as Hulu and AT&T TV],” the company said in a filing. “The three months ended March 31, 2020, was negatively impacted by delays and cancellations of sporting events as a result of COVID-19.”

Sling TV launched in 2015 to help pay-TV operators offer standalone access to premium linear channels. Since then, the service has struggled to maintain its market position, as Disney-owned Hulu with Live TV now leads the market with more than 4 million subs.

Pay-TV subs decreased by about 230,000 in the first quarter, compared to a decrease of about 413,000 subs in the previous-year quarter. The company closed the quarter with 11.06 pay-TV subs, which includes 8.69 million Dish TV subs and 2.37 million Sling TV subs.

 

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.

Sling TV Raises Prices

Sling TV Jan. 27 raised prices for Sling Orange and Sling Blue base service customers to $35 per month, an increase of $5 per month. Via the multi-service discount, customers can get both Sling Orange and Sling Blue for $50 per month, also an increase of $5 per month.

Existing customer prices will not change through July 2021, when their existing subscription remains active.

“Unfortunately, we are forced to raise prices because the television networks keep charging us more, but we fight hard to get the best deal for our customers,” Michael Schwimmer, group president of Sling TV, said in a statement. “The proof of our commitment is apparent, as Sling TV is still the best deal in the market, keeping our prices much lower than cable and other live streaming services. Sling TV customers can rest assured that we’ll continue to offer the best combination of live news, sports and entertainment cable channels at the best value.”

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The company also instituted new pricing for Sling TV extras:

  • Sports Extra: New customers with Sling Orange or Sling Blue will now pay $11 per month (an increase of $1 per month); new customers who subscribe to both Sling Orange and Sling Blue will continue to pay $15 per month.
  • All other Extras: New customers who subscribe to Comedy Extra, Kids Extra, News Extra, Lifestyle Extra, Hollywood Extra and/or Heartland Extra, will now pay $6 per month for each Extra (an increase of $1 per month).
  • Total TV Deal: New customers who want all the programming Sling TV has to offer can now subscribe to the Total TV Deal for $21 per month with a Sling Orange or Sling Blue service (an increase of $1 per month), or $27 per month for new customers subscribed to both Sling Orange and Sling Blue (increase of $2 per month). The Total TV Deal provides customers with DVR Plus and all seven Sling TV Extras (Sports Extra, Comedy Extra, Kids Extra, News Extra, Lifestyle Extra, Hollywood Extra and Heartland Extra), a value of up to $56 per month.

 

All Sling Orange and Sling Blue customers will receive a free preview of Sling TV’s “4 Extras Deal” through Feb. 15. The 4 Extras Deal provides customers with Kids Extra, News Extra, Lifestyle Extra and Comedy Extra for $12 per month (a savings of $12 per month if purchased separately).

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Sling TV also expanded its DVR offerings to all existing and new subscribers. Sling TV customers can now enjoy 50 hours of free DVR storage, an increase from 10 free storage hours, or upgrade to “DVR Plus” for 200 hours of storage, up from 50, for $5 per month.

“A robust DVR feature is a must-have for a premium entertainment experience — customers have told us they want more, and we delivered,” said Schwimmer in a statement. “By more than quadrupling DVR for all customers at no charge, Sling TV continues to provide the best value for pay-TV in the industry.”

All existing DVR Plus customers will automatically receive 200 hours in their storage, starting Jan. 28.

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.

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.