Well-to-do investment analysts often find it hard to look at the world the way middle class and poor people do. Yet that’s the challenge they face as they try to assess the impact of Dish Network’s just-announced Sling TV streaming service — which offers ESPN, CNN and about 10 other channels for just $20 a month. Will it simply appeal to millennials who’d rather pay for broadband and mobile connections? Or will it tempt lots of cable and satellite customers to ditch the traditional pay TV bundle that requires them to pay $80+ a month for lots of channels that they don’t watch?
Sling will be “genuinely disruptive,” says MoffettNathanson Research’s Craig Moffett in a report titled: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Start Your Worrying!” While he doesn’t expect it to “take the world by storm,” consumers who combine Sling with a broadcast-only package and perhaps another streaming service such as Netflix, would have “the ability to craft their own bundle that might, just might, be ‘good enough.'” He figures that Sling will collectively pay Disney, Time Warner and other content providers about $12.86 a month. The company could see big profits, though, from the $5 add-on packages starting with one for kids and another with news and information channels.
Nomura Research’s Anthony DiClemente is less impressed. Without broadcast and sports channels, and some other goodies, “we do not believe the service will be attractive to core Pay TV customers.” Consumers might save as much as $50 a month by subscribing to cable’s broadband service without pay TV. “Adding in the desired OTT services such as Sling TV, Netflix, and/or Hulu quickly erodes that savings.” Still, DiClemente notes that Sling highlights the differences between popular and unpopular channels. That could “increase the bifurcation of rates and distribution achieved by ‘must-have’, high quality content networks versus the smaller, more fringe networks.”
Brean Capital’s Todd Mitchell sees Sling differently. While it might appeal to people who can’t afford the full pay TV bundle, “the product may be met with some resistance from younger tech-savvy demographic as it does not offer DVR streaming capabilities, nor does it allow simultaneous streaming by more than one user at a time, and it will also include commercial blocks that are similar in length to TV broadcasts.” But he imagines that the service could become an important asset for Dish Network if it evolves into a major wireless communications provider. (Chairman Charlie Ergen has been amassing airwave spectrum rights, and could try to buy T-Mobile after having been rebuffed in an effort to buy Sprint.) Sling could then become “a value-add piece to an existing wireless voice/data subscription, where an additional $20 gives a subscriber true [TV Everywhere], on-the-go and with no data-cap penalties.”