UPDATE, 11:49 AM: The service is scheduled to launch by the end of this month, Sling Television CEO Roger Lynch said this morning at the company’s formal CES presentation. There also may be an introductory offer, although he didn’t provide details.
PREVIOUS, 9:31 AM: Attention potential cord-cutters: this could be huge. Dish Network says today that its soon-to-launch streaming service, called Sling Television, will cost just $20 a month — far less than the $35 analysts anticipated — and will include channels from Turner Broadcasting as well as ones from previously announced deals with Disney, Scripps Networks, and A+E. That means it will offer live news (from CNN) and sports (from ESPN and ESPN1), the two forms of must-have programming that keep many people tied to their $80+ a month cable and satellite subscriptions because they are not available on VOD services lead by Netflix.
The basic Sling TV package, being unveiled at the CES confab in Las Vegas, will include Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim plus web content from Maker Studios. (A+E will be added soon.) The company will offer add-on packs each costing $5 a month. It initially has a “Kids Extra” package with Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV, as well as “News & Info Extra” with HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV. A sports package is “coming soon” but won’t include regional sports networks. A pack of broadcast channels also is in the works, but could take time given the number of deals that would have to be made in each local market.
“Our offer will have the best of live cable and Internet video, some of which will be exclusive to our platform,” Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch tells me. “In addition to live, we will have video-on-demand rights and also three-day look-back rights” that will vary by channel. Viewers will be able to fast-forward and re-wind non-live programming, but can’t zap through the ads. A Sling TV subscription will include a single stream, which means it can serve one device at a time.
Dish Digital CMO Glenn Eisen says that “there will be no contracts, no commitments, no credit checks, no cable installers, no complicated equipment, no sneaky pricing, and no made-up fees” and users will be able to cancel the service on-line. “This will feel much more like Spotify or Netflix than it will a traditional pay-TV service.”
They’re so determined to keep it distinct that ads won’t link Sling to Dish, and the online service will have its own infrastructure, including its own call centers. At some point, possibly this year, “I’m sure we’ll break it out separately” in Dish’s earnings, Lynch says.
Will this low-cost alternative send a tremor through the lucrative pay TV business by encouraging lots of current subscribers to ditch their expensive services filled with channels that they don’t watch? The execs say it won’t, which they base on their experience with DishWorld, which streams international channels. “If we were going to see cannibalization, we think we would’ve been much more likely to see it on the international side,” where there’s more overlap between Dish’s online and satellite offerings, Lynch says. Sling TV “is really targeting a different demographic” — especially Millennials who “are not subscribing to pay-TV in nearly the percentages that previous generations did.”
Perhaps. But considering how much people hate their cable and satellite companies, I wouldn’t be surprised if millions decide that they can do better by mixing and matching Sling TV with some combination of Netflix ($8.99 a month), Hulu Plus ($7.99 a month), Amazon Prime (a yearly expense that comes to $8.25 a month and includes other benefits), CBS All Access ($5.99), over-the-air TV, and new or upcoming online services from HBO, Showtime, Sony, and others.
At launch, Sling TV will work with iOS and Android-powered mobile devices as well as Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick; the Google Nexus Player; Microsoft’s Xbox One; Roku players, TVs and Streaming Stick, and LG Smart TVs. Google’s Chromecast and other devices and smart TVs are due to be added soon, Lynch says. Conspicuously not on the list are Apple TV, as well as Windows and Blackberry devices.