Sling TV Lost 94,000 Subs in Q4

Dish Network Feb. 19 disclosed that its online TV platform — Sling TV — lost 94,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019. That compared to a gain of 47,000 subs in the previous-year period. It was the online TV platform’s first subscriber loss ever.

Sling TV, which ushered in the standalone online pay-TV market in 2015, ended the fiscal period with 2.59 million subs, up from 2.42 million subs a year ago. At the same time, online TV continues to stagnate as an antidote to subscription video-on-demand and ad-supported VOD.

High-profile YouTube TV just topped 2 million subs, while Disney-owned Hulu with Live TV recently surpassed Sling with 2.7 million subs. Sony’s PlayStation Vue shuttered with reportedly about 500,000 subs.

Meanwhile, Dish’s legacy satellite TV operations finished the year with almost 9.4 million subs — down more than 500,000 subs from the end of 2018. For the quarter, Dish lost a combined 194,000 subs when combined with Sling. That was a significant improvement from the 334,000 combined subs lost in the previous-year quarter.

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Regardless, 2020 finds Dish focusing on a new business: a nationwide 5G wireless network. As part of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, Dish established an agreement with the Department of Justice mandating it would provide nationwide 5G wireless coverage from 20% to 70% of the country’s population based on each of four spectrum bands.

Since 2008, Dish says it has invested more than $11 billion acquiring wireless spectrum licenses and related assets. These licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements, as well as renewal requirements with the federal government.

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Sling TV Markets Service With ‘National Cut the Cord Day,’ Discounts

Sling TV announced Feb. 9 is National Cut the Cord Day, to commemorate the service’s fifth anniversary and as part of a five-day celebration with deals available on sling.com Feb. 7-11.

New and returning customers can sign up for one month of discounted Sling TV for $5.

“For the past five years, we’ve been dedicated to making live TV streaming simple, easy and affordable — helping Americans save $1.2 billion through cord-cutting,” said Warren Schlichting, Sling TV group president, in a statement. “National Cut the Cord Day is designed to take away any excuse to cling to cable. We want to help future Slingers find out how easy it is to cut the cord and get started on Sling TV.”

Sling users start with a base service, plus 10 hours of free Cloud DVR ($30 per month), and select any “Extras” they need (starting at $5 each). Users can also add on-demand content from other subscription video on-demand streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu, as well as an over-the-air antenna (OTA) for free access to local broadcast channels.

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“Sling TV has pioneered cord-cutting by giving customers only the channels they want and the ability to integrate local channels into the interface for free, saving hundreds of dollars from their cable bill,” Schlichting said in a statement. “So while making the leap from cable to live TV streaming may feel a little daunting at first, it’s easier than you think, and absolutely worth it. Not only is it incredibly easy to get the most popular channels on your favorite devices, Sling TV seamlessly integrates your free local channels for a whole-home solution, when paired with an OTA antenna and AirTV.”

Cut the Cord Day offers include:

  • the first month of Sling Orange for $5 (originally $30), giving subscribers 30-plus channels with one single stream, including ESPN, Disney Channel, A&E, TNT, HGTV, CNN, TBS, Food Network, Lifetime and Freeform;
  • the first month of Sling Blue for $5 (originally $30), giving subscribers 40-plus channels with three simultaneous streams, including FOX (select markets), NBC (select markets), USA, Bravo, TLC, FX, Fox News and Comedy Central; and
  • the first month of Sling Orange and Sling Blue for $20 (originally $45), giving subscribers both services for 50-plus channels and four simultaneous streams.

Sling TV is also offering new customers a Cord Cutter Bundle to provide full integration of free locals via an OTA antenna, including an AirTV 2, AirTV Mini and OTA antenna for $5 when prepaying for three months of either Sling Orange or Sling Blue at full price (originally $99).

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The registrar at National Day Calendar declared National Cut the Cord Day to be observed on Feb. 9, annually, memorializing Sling TV as the first streaming service to deliver live television over-the-top since its Feb. 9, 2015 debut, according to a Sling press release.

As part of National Cut the Cord Day, Sling TV created a Cord Cutter Hotline (855-553-2862) to support people who are thinking about cutting the cord.

 

YouTube TV Tops 2 Million Subscribers

High-profile marketing around the World Series and Super Bowl is apparently paying off for Google’s proprietary online TV service, YouTube TV.

Google announced that the online TV service now has more than 2 million subscribers since launching in 2016. The tally puts the platform just behind Dish Network’s pioneering Sling TV with 2.68 million subs and Hulu with Live TV, reportedly at 2.7 million subs.

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YouTube (excluding $1.2 billion in ad-revenue from YouTube TV) generated more than $15 billion in advertising revenue in 2019 — up from $11 billion in 2018.

The tallies pale in comparison to overall revenue for Google parent Alphabet Inc.

“In 2019 we again delivered strong revenue growth, with revenue of $162 billion, up 18% year over year and up 20% on a constant currency basis,” CFO Ruth Porat said in a statement.

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Sling TV Granted Technology & Engineering Emmy Award

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Jan. 15 awarded Sling TV a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award for its work developing and launching the nation’s first live over-the-top television service.

A pioneer in adaptive bit rate streaming, Dish Network launched Sling TV on Feb. 9, 2015 as the first streaming service to deliver live television over-the-top. Sling, which ended the most-recent fiscal period with 2.66 million subscribers, offers a wide range of free programming in addition to a full lineup of live news, sports and entertainment channels, including Fox News, CNN, ESPN and HGTV, as well as Cloud DVR capabilities.

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The market now includes AT&T TV Now, Philo TV, YouTube TV, fuboTV, Spectrum TV Plus, Hulu with Live TV and Vidgo.

Sling TV’s premium service is available for a monthly subscription on a variety of smart televisions, tablets, game consoles, computers, smartphones, virtual reality headsets and streaming devices.

In addition to offering live television, Sling offers users access to a suite of free content, à la carte channels and services, transactional live events and movies on-demand, without requiring a base subscription.

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“Our journey over the past five years has been about the customer, offering exceptional value with unprecedented flexibility. In short, making TV better for everyone,” Warren Schlichting, EVP and group president, Sling TV, said in a statement. “[Dish] has a history of fostering innovation and disrupting the industry, and Sling’s leadership in live streaming TV is another example of our culture.”

Sling TV will receive the Technology & Engineering Emmy Award in the category of “Pioneering Development of Large Scale, Cloud Served, Broadcast Quality, Linear Channel Transmission” at the 71st annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards on April 19 at the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference in Las Vegas.

 

YouTube TV Extends Free Trial Period

Google-owned online television service YouTube TV is extending its free trial period to 14 days through Jan. 15. The service with more than 1 million subscribers had offered new members a free seven-day trial period.

Launched in 2016, YouTube TV costs $49.99 monthly featuring 70 channels, including most major sports networks. The channel has been a presenting sponsor of the MLB World Series.

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YouTube TV is less expensive than Hulu with Live TV and fuboTV ($54.99) and AT&T Now ($64.99), but costs more than Sling TV ($30) and Philo TV ($20).

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Sling TV Turning 5 Years Old

It was five years ago at CES that Dish Network announced it would soon launch an upstart $20 monthly online TV service called Sling TV. Today, the service, which launched in February 2015, costs $25 to $30 and touts an industry-leading subscriber base of 2.69 million.

A combo package costs $40, with add-on programming available at $5 to $10 extra per month.

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Sling TV was the first service to offer standalone ad-supported access to ESPN, which at that time was one of the pillars of the traditional pay-TV bundle. Dish had acquired the groundbreaking online rights following a protracted carriage dispute with Disney.

The move heralded the launches of Sony’s PlayStation Vue, HBO Now, Spectrum TV Plus, DirecTV Now (AT&T TV Now), Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, Philo TV,  and fuboTV, among others.

Consumer Reports recently touted Sling TV among the best standalone streaming services for cord cutters. Sling also launched apps for LG and Samsung TVs, as well as Xbox game systems. “With Dish’s Sling TV, you don’t get individual shows; you get channels,” wrote the publication.

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TechRadar called Sling TV a “cure-all” for the cord-cutting generation, “something that we knew we needed but no company stepped up to make.”

The website lauded Sling TV for its affordability and monthly access.

“Best of all, you won’t have to give up some of the perks cable provided in the last few years like the ability to pause live TV or watch something that aired up to 72 hours ago,” wrote the site.

 

TiVo Unveils $50 4K Streaming Video Device With Sling TV

LAS VEGAS — TiVo Jan. 7 at CES announced TiVo Stream 4K, a $50 streaming video device with live TV and featuring cloud DVR from a Sling TV app, in addition to other third-party content services.

TiVo Stream 4K will launch with Dish Network’s Sling TV (separate subscription required) as the preferred source for online TV. The device will also integrate with multiple online video services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, YouTube — eliminating the need to toggle between multiple apps to access TV shows.

TiVo Stream 4K includes a small device that plugs into the HDMI port on the television featuring Dolby Atmos sound and Dolby Vision HDR.

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The device will also feature TiVo+, the ad-sponsored platform streaming television shows and movies. The AVOD service added 23 channels to join the current lineup of 26 channels currently available.

“With TiVo Stream 4K, we have created a dramatically better experience for viewers who are tired of hunting through apps and interfaces to find the amazing content available through online content providers,” CEO Dave Shull said in a statement.

In addition, the Sling TV app will be available on the TiVo Stream 4K box and Sling content listings will be surfaced via universal search. Sling’s 2.6 million subs will be able to search for TV shows on the TiVo Stream 4K interface — or by speaking into their Voice Remote — and a wide variety of shows offered by Sling TV will be presented alongside the free channels offered through TiVo+.

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“This strategic relationship will not only help our current subscribers rediscover TiVo, it will make it easier for new Sling subscribers to make the transition to streaming video,” said Warren Schlichting, EVP and group president, Sling TV.

TiVo will also market TiVo Stream 4K in partnership with multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to enable them to leverage TiVo Stream 4K to benefit their broadband-only subscribers. Schurz Communications is the first MVPD to commit to a co-marketing relationship with TiVo.

TiVo Stream 4K will be available to customers beginning in April and will be available via TiVo.com and other retail channels.

Online TV Confronts Rising Carriage Fees

When launched in 2015, online TV services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now were championed as pay-TV saviors in the face of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Now Vue is history, DirecTV Now has been rebranded AT&T TV and Sling remains stagnant with about 2.6 million subscribers. All the while, the carriage fees paid by distributors to content holders continue to rise, leading to programming blackouts for subscribers.

A carriage dispute is a disagreement over the right to “carry”, that is, retransmit, a broadcaster’s signal. Carriage disputes first occurred between broadcasters and cable companies and now include satellite and other multichannel video programming distributors such as online TV.

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Sports-themed fuboTV just announced it was dropping Disney-owned FX, FXX, FXM and National Geographic due to increased costs to carry the channels.

Disney reportedly is demanding $16 monthly in retransmission fees per subscriber to carry the combined channels, including ESPN — an amount deemed too expensive by fuboTV.

A fuboTV staffer recently went on Reddit to address the issue: “As many of you know, neither fuboTV nor any other distributor is able to license just ESPN from Disney; instead, distributors are required to license the ‘Disney bundle.’ There is no way around this. As such, we [opted] to make the difficult decision of building a channel lineup that is both differentiated and affordable to consumers.”

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The staffer contends the Disney bundle price would require fuboTV to revisit bundle pricing, i.e. raise prices.

“Additionally, it’d come with high penetration (user) requirements, which would limit our ability to offer a differentiated offer for different consumer cohorts,” the staffer wrote.

In a media statement, fuboTV said it has added dozens of entertainment networks to its base package, including channels from AMC Networks, WarnerMedia, Viacom and Discovery.

“fuboTV remains a leading platform for the best movies and TV shows across every genre — from comedy and drama to nature and reality — both live and on demand,” read the statement.

Last month, Sling TV raised its monthly subscription fees by $5 to $30 each for Sling Orange and Sling Blue to offset program distribution costs. A combined bundle fee costs $45 monthly.

“Sling doesn’t own the networks you watch — we have to pay programmers for their channels so that we can provide them to you, and the price of programming has been going up,” Warren Schlichting, president of the online service, wrote in a blog post. “Unfortunately, we have to share those rising prices with you, so we can continue to provide you with the same great experience you’ve come to expect from Sling.”

 

Average U.S. Home Streaming Bundle Sweet Spot: $20-$21

With the field of subscription streaming video services growing, new data shows the average U.S. household would spend $20 to $21 monthly for combined platforms — slightly more than 20% of the average pay-TV bundle ($96.18).

Soda.com, in a survey of 1,000 consumers who stream video in the home conducted Nov. 7-9, 2019, found the majority (32%) of respondents would pay $20 or more monthly for combined streaming services, while 30% would prefer not to bundle services and 14% would not pay more than $10 for a bundle.

Notably, 44% of respondents said they use two or more streaming services per week.

With SVOD services ranging from $4.99 for Apple TV+ to $15 for HBO Max, which launches in May, consumers are faced with the challenge of mixing and matching services or prioritizing services based on the user’s favorite content.

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Netflix is projecting 61.2 million domestic subscribers at the end 2019, with actual figures to be released later this month. That’s more than 80% of the combined tally predicted for Hulu (28.5 million), Apple TV+ (10 million), Disney+ (15 million), CBS All Access (8 million), HBO Now (8 million) and ESPN+ (3.5 million), according to CNBC.

In August 2019, there were about 86.5 million traditional pay-TV households — a number that is projected to drop to 73 million by 2023, according to Statista. Most pay-TV subs continue their subscriptions based on habit, premium channels and sports.

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The survey contends Netflix remains the best overall streaming service followed by YouTube TV. Sports fans favored sports-themed fubo TV or ESPN+, whiles families sought Amazon Prime Video (Prime membership and free shipping) and Disney+.

Movie fans chose HBO Now (soon HBO Max) and Hulu, while budget-minded respondents opted for Sling TV and Hoopla.

 

Sling TV Raises Subscription Pricing 25%

Online TV pioneer Sling TV Dec. 23 raised subscription pricing 20% to 25% depending on the monthly service plan. It is the second price increase by Dish Network since it launched Sling in 2015, priced at $20 monthly.

Sling Orange and Sling Blue are now priced at $30, with a Sling Orange/Blue combo offered at $45/month (from $40/month). The TV add-on also increased by $5 to $25. Add-on packages include premium movie, sports and TV programming.

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Notably, Sling TV — which tallied more than 2.6 million subs at the end of Q3 — was the first online service to offer standalone access to ESPN following Dish’s landmark carriage agreement with Disney. Now Sling is offering DVR functionality (up to 10 hours) for ESPN and other content channels, which includes the ability to skip commercials during playback.

“Sling customers have been clear: they want more live news and sports, and they want a cloud DVR included at purchase — and we listened,” Warren Schlichting, EVP/group president, Sling TV, said in a statement. “Over the past five years, we have proven our dedication to making Sling an exceptional value with unmatched flexibility. These announcements today are further proof points that Sling is the premier live streaming service.”

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Other changes include Sling TV adding Fox News, MSNBC and CNN’s HLN to Sling Blue base service. Fox Business Network launching into Sling Blue News Extra.

Big Ten Network (BTN) will launch on Sling TV ahead of the 2020-21 college football season. FXM will launch into Sling Blue Hollywood Extra, which will also add FXX, including the linear feed.

Nat Geo Wild is joining Sling Blue Heartland Extra, including the linear feed.

Sling Orange recently launched Longhorn Network and ACC Network to the service’s Sports Extra, as well as the ability to record Disney and ESPN channels with Sling TV’s Cloud DVR.