LAS VEGAS -- Fewer people -- and particularly fewer young people -- want to pay for cable or satellite TV service. So Dish Network, which has been gradually shedding subscribers, is trying something a little different to acquire new customers: It's launching Sling TV, a cheaper Over-the-Top (OTT) Internet TV service, which starts at $20 and includes a slate of Disney and Turner Networks channels, among others.
The service is scheduled to be available in the coming weeks -- no exact launch date was given -- on an impressive array of Internet-connected devices, including, Roku media streamers, PCs, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, and iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
"Millennials don't choose paid TV," said Roger Lynch, who was named CEO of Sling TV LLC. "So we designed a service based on how millennials consume content, with no contracts. You can come and go as you please."
Lynch said that users can pay for a month at a time and that the theme for Sling TV's marketing and advertising campaign would be "Take Back TV."
The $20 Sling TV base package includes ESPN, ESPN2, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and the "best of Internet video" with Maker Studios. Add-on packs with additional kids and news programming will be available for $5 each.
Lynch said the launch channel lineup was set, but the lineup would evolve over time and other channels would be added. No DVR capabilities or local channels would be available to Sling TV subscribers, but they'd be able to access plenty of on-demand content, he added.
Similar name, different brand
If Sling TV sounds familiar, it's because Dish owns Sling Media, which makes a line of place-shiftingand services that are also integrated into Dish's latest Hopper DVR. But Sling says the two brands aren't as related as you might think.
"Sling TV is an emerging over-the-top service that is completely independent from Sling Media's line of Slingbox products and services," a press release notes. "Sling Media is the leading provider of multi-screen TV solutions giving consumers access to their live and recorded traditional pay-TV service anywhere in the world, on any connected device."
In the short term, the similarity of the names may create some confusion for consumers, but in the long run, Sling Media may prove to be a dying business thanks to all the cable and satellite companies creating TV "everywhere" apps that allow you to access their services from a variety of user-owned devices (Dish, for instance, has its Dish Anywhere app).
It remains to be seen whether Dish's Sling TV channel lineup will be enticing enough to attract a large subscriber base at $20 a pop, but it very well may mark a turning point for how cable and satellite companies package their services in a more a la carte fashion.
Dish at least thinks having ESPN on board is a key selling point.
"It's the thing a lot people really miss when they don't have a pay-TV service," Dish President and CEO Joe Clayton said. "They want live sports. They want ESPN and ESPN 2."