Sling TV has continued its momentum as a front-runner of the streaming TV pack. Even more customers are turning to online avenues to view programming. Of an estimated 5 million subscribers, nearly half chose the Dish Network service as their provider. But despite the promise of Sling TV, there is little proof that it can be Dish Network’s saving grace in the cord-cutting era. Dish Network’s 2018 annual report revealed that revenue was in decline and subscriber numbers were at fifteen-year lows. Sling TV also faces fierce competition from programmers like DirecTV Now and Sony Vue. To content providers like CBS and HBO, the field was already crowded. As Sling TV looks to grow its brand, what type of customer relationships will be needed to create a sustainable, successful model? If you were creating a corporate strategy, how would you separate the brand from its many competitors?
Read more about the history of Sling TV in the timeline below.
Charlie Ergen launches the Dish Network to compete with cable television.
In February, Dish Network launches Sling TV, an Internet TV service aimed primarily at eighteen- to thirty-five-year-olds.
Sling TV offers a skinny bundle of thirty streaming channels for $20 per month, allowing customers to personalize their experience through packages such as “Kids Extra” or “Lifestyle Extra” for an additional $5 per month. Sling becomes the first service to live stream major sports, news, and other paid programs through an internet platform. It nets 169,000 subscribers by the end of its first year.
As Sling TV builds out its product, more households begin cutting the cord. Market research from Nielsen shows that from 2015 to 2016, over-the-top/broadband only households increase by an additional 2.5 million while cable households sink by 1.8 million. In August, Sling TV launches an ad targeting cord-cutters. Traditionally, its business model has been tailored toward “cord-nevers.” In December, Sling TV begins testing a new cloud-based DVR service, which will let users record up to 100 hours of TV shows, in simultaneous fashion.
In March, Dish Network’s 2016 annual report notes that while total combined Paid-TV subscribers for DISH and Sling TV is declining, Q4 is a net positive. The company touts its cloud-based DVR as an asset going forward. It also notes “significant competition” for Internet-based services, from programmers like DirecTV Now and Sony Vue, to content providers like CBS and HBO (Annual Report, p. 25). Dish Network also raises a flag about Sling TV being an expensive technology to operate. In April, Sling TV adds Showtime to its offerings. With that addition, Sling TV becomes the first online provider to offer the top four premium channels — HBO (April 2015), Cinemax (Feb. 2016), Starz (Sept. 2016), Sunday. By July, Sling TV reports more than 2 million subscribers. By the end of the year, reports estimate 5 million online TV subscribers across the board (Sling TV with 2.3 million, DirecTVNow with 1.2 million, Playstation Vue with 600,000, Hulu with live TV at 450,000, YouTube TV with 300,000 and FuboTV with 150,000).
In a February earnings call, Dish Network reveals mixed results for Q4 in 2017. Paid-TV subscribers rise by nearly 40,000 but revenue falls by 7.2%. Sling TV announces that it has 2.21 million subscribers, making it the largest internet-based TV service. In May, Dish delivers disappointing Q1 earnings of $368M, down 2% from the previous year. Net Paid-TV subscribers fall by 94,000. Sling TV is a bright spot, adding 91,000 subscribers during the quarter.
By the end of 2018, Sling TV has added Discovery Networks and popular Spanish-Language content from both beIN Sports and Discovery. These additions, plus others, make Sling TV the OTT leader for South American programming. While things are looking up for Sling TV, Dish’s future looked grim. By the end of the final quarter of 2018, one million people cancel their cable or satellite subscription. While Sling TV is growing, stiff competition lowers subscriber growth rates.
Dish releases its 2018 Q4 financials in February 2019, which reveal that revenue is lower year-over-year, and subscribers are dropping to a fifteen-year low. After the release of the Q4 financials, Dish Network stocks continue to drop, falling 8%.
Want to learn more about how Dish used Sling TV to cater its services to new and changing customer segments during the era of cord-cutting? Read more about Sling TV by referring to pgs. 123-124 & 135 in The Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur.
Sources for Sling TV Timeline:
Sling TV adds Showtime, expands its add-on lineup
Sling TV is launching a cloud DVR next month
DISH 2016 Annual Report
HBO available on Sling TV starting today
Sling TV Targets Cord-Cutters With New Ad Campaign
Cinemax Is Now Available To Cord Cutters, But Only On Sling TV
Sling TV Has Over 2 Million Subscribers
Sling is the largest internet-based TV provider
Sling growth rates decline but still ahead of competition
More Than Five Million Subscribe To Streaming Bundles
Dish posts mixed results, sees a big boost from US tax reform
Dish Reports More Sling, Less TV Subscribers — Earnings Review
Sling adds Discovery Networks
Sling adds Spanish-language content
Sling becomes leader in OTT
Outlook for traditional tv goes from bad to worse
Dish releases 2018 Q4 financials
Dish subscribers drop to 15-year low