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.

Vidgo Expands Online TV Service

Upstart online TV service Vidgo has expanded service to include Disney Media Networks. First launched in late September, Vidgo now offers 60 channels for $39.99 per month across sports, news, and entertainment genres.

“Our new distribution agreement with Vidgo delivers consumer optionality by offering our full suite of networks as part of an economy package,” said Sean Breen, SVP of Disney Media Distribution. “Vidgo has smartly devised a robust channel line-up at a competitive price point compared to the limited economy package choices that are currently in the marketplace.”

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Vidgo joins an online TV market that has stagnated after a promising start. Pioneer Sling TV still leads the field with about 2.6 million subscribers. High-profile competitors DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue have either rebranded or shuttered.

Vidgo enables subscribers to stream on three simultaneous devices at home or on the go. Select live local channels from ABC, Fox, and My Network TV.
ESPN, Disney, Freeform, FX, National Geographic, Fox, Discovery, A&E, and ViacomCBS. Fox Sports, NFL Network, PAC-12 Network, Stadium, and beIN Sports. Fox News, Fox Business, Cheddar, participating ABC and Fox local station news. Upcoming 38 upcoming college football bowl games and college basketball games.

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“This is the next step in social TV,” said Kiswe CEO Mike Schabel, with whom the mobile carrier has a distribution with Vidgo.

Vidgo is accessible on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV, along with iOS and Android mobile devices.

Sling TV Bows DVR Function for ESPN

In time for the college football bowl games, Sling TV has begun offering subscribers the ability to record ESPN content for an additional $5 monthly fee.

Slingers are now able to record programming from ESPN, ESPN2, ACC Network, SEC Network, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPNEWS and ESPNU.

Digital networks ESPN3, ACC Network Extra and SEC Network+ are not eligible for recording via Cloud DVR on Sling.

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Users can now pause, rewind or fast-forward through any recorded programs, and even skip the commercials. Previously, recordings on select channels would automatically redirect viewers to on-demand content, if available.

With this update, viewers can now watch the version they recorded and fast-forward through commercials, saving time to watch the shows they love, without interruption.

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Sling subs can record up to 50 hours of programming and keep the recordings for as long as they are a subscriber, and even protect recordings from being deleted. For those taking a break from Sling, the Dish Network-owned online TV service will keep recordings for 30 days after the subscription ends.

 

Sling TV Offering Free Google Nest Hub With Three-Month Pre-paid Subscription

Dish Networks’ online television service Sling TV is offering new subscribers a free Google Nest Hub ($129 value) voice-activated streaming media device when pre-paying for three months service.

Sling TV options include Sling Orange for $20 monthly and Sling Blue ($25), in addition to separate premium content additions.

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Google Nest is a brand used to market smart home products, including smart speakers, smart displays, streaming devices, thermostats, smoke detectors, routers and security systems including smart doorbells, cameras and smart locks.

Launched in 2015, Sling TV helped create the online TV market, which today includes AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and fubo TV, among others.

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Parks: CBS Makes Gain Among Top OTT Video Services

Parks Associates Dec. 5 said SVOD platform CBS All Access moved from eighth place to fifth in its annual Top 10 list of over-the-top video services.

This list is based on estimated number of subscribers through October 2019 and was compiled prior to the launch of Disney+ and Apple TV+, and includes paid subscriptions.

Major League Baseball’s MLB.TV dropped from sixth to eight place, despite having gained subscribers since 2018. Sling TV remained consistent with more than 2.5 million subscribers and No. 1 rating among online TV services, which includes Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and AT&T Now (previously DirecTV Now).

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Top 10 US Subscription OTT Video Services
1 Netflix
2 Amazon Prime Video
3 Hulu (SVOD)
4 HBO Now
5 CBS All Access
6 STARZ
7 Showtime
8 MLB.TV
9 ESPN+
10 Sling TV

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“Competition in live streaming services is intensifying as several big brand names are competing for a small but growing slice of the OTT subscription base,” Brett Sappington, senior research director and principal analyst, said in a statement. “Consumers continue to sign up for multiple OTT video services. If this trend holds, many services can continue to grow as the market grows. However, a slowdown will suggest that consumers are finally drawing the line on the amount they will spend each month.”

Until then, Disney+ continues to generate headlines, acquiring 10 million subscribers upon initial launch, which would rank it fourth on the list, ahead of HBO Now.

“Their entry, along with Apple TV+ and other direct-to-consumer services upcoming in 2020, has been a major disruptor to the OTT space and will require all players from top to bottom to ensure they are delivering unique value to their subscribers in order to retain their base,” Sappington said.

Parks contends 71% of U.S. broadband households have at least one OTT entertainment product, such as a smart TV or streaming media player.
Nearly three-quarters of domestic broadband households now subscribe to an online video service. About 49% of recent OTT subs signed up through the service’s website; 33% through the service’s app; and 11% through a cable or satellite TV provider.

Sling TV Offering Free Amazon Fire TV Stick With Two-Month Sign-Up

Sling TV is offering consumers a free Amazon Fire TV Stick when they pre-pay two months of Sling Orange ($20) or Sling Blue ($25) service.

Dish Network-owned Sling launched in 2015 as the first standalone online TV platform. It currently has about 2.7 million subscribers.

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The Fire TV Stick promotion is limited to one device per household and cannot be combined with other deals. Consumers must provide email address and credit card. The deal is offered to new and qualified existing customers only. There is a limit of one device per Sling TV account. The deal is not available with the free trial and is not available in Puerto Rico.