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Dish Slings Tastier TV to Millennials

By Peter Suciu
Jan 6, 2015 2:11 PM PT

Dish Network on Monday unveiled Sling TV, its live over-the-top television service, at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas.

Sling TV will be offered to consumers without a contract, starting at US$20 per month. It will be available early this year through a variety of devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google's Nexus Player, Roku boxes, Microsoft's Xbox One video game console, and select Samsung and LG Smart TVs. Sling TV also can be streamed on PCs and Macs, as well as Android and iOS mobile devices.

This new service is not meant to complement Dish Network's existing satellite pay-TV service. Instead, it is aimed at cord-cutters who seek to break away from traditional pay-TV services by accessing content over the Internet.

"Sling TV provides a viable alternative for live television to the Millennial audience," said Joseph P. Clayton, Dish president and CEO. "This service gives millions of consumers a new consideration for pay-TV; Sling TV fills a void for an underserved audience."

Sling's OTT Offerings

Dish Network's Sling TV will deliver live TV including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network and Disney Channel. It also will offer online video content from Maker Studios. It can be viewed in the home or via mobile devices anywhere there is a broadband connection, including via mobile 4G LTE networks.

Sling TV's over-the-top service will feature live sports, including ESPN and ESPN2.

The content will be delivered over an IP-based network, and it will utilize an adaptive bitrate streaming technology to provide high quality video even if there are bandwidth fluctuations.

Viewers will be able to pause, rewind and fast-forward the video. Some channels also will be offered with a 3-Day Replay feature, which makes programming aired over the past three days accessible without the need to record it to a DVR.

For Cord-Cutters and More

Sling TV targets consumers who have cut the cord, are considering cutting it, or who never utilized a pay-TV service.

"This is very much aimed at Millennials," said Greg Ireland, research director for multiscreen video at IDC.

That doesn't mean that Dish does not expect some current customers to transition to Sling TV.

"Dish is targeting their subscribers that are considering a move beyond the current model," Ireland told the E-Commerce Times. "In a sense, they are positioning themselves for a longer term and will have something else to offer those subscribers."

What's Missing

While Dish's focus is on the channels the service will provide, the bigger news could be what is not included. At launch, this service will not feature Twentieth Century Fox or Viacom offerings -- meaning no Fox or CBS channels. There will be no MTV or Comedy Central, channels that could be key components for attracting the Millennial demographic.

Sling TV may not be a solution for those who want local live TV either.

"That is a hurdle, no doubt. Whether this is successful could revolve around whether Sling TV offers the content that Millennials want," noted Ireland. ESPN may not be enough of a draw.

"To be fair, this is in its early stages," he added. "The better response is to applaud them for taking the next step."

The Unbundling Challenge

Dish's announcement of its Sling TV service follows similar moves by CBS and HBO Go last year, offering their services online for a small subscription.

"This is the latest in a number of loud wake-up calls that there is a huge base -- 25 million or more -- that are outside the traditional paid-TV subscriber base, and the services are taking note as how to reach them," said Ireland.

Sling TV could prove that it is possible for some pay-TV providers to unbundle their current offerings and provide more tiers of channel offerings.

However, "the traditional pay-TV/content owner [is] going be resistant to unbundling," argued Erik Brannon, senior analyst for the U.S. television market at IHS.

"For every OTT action that is made, it is as close to unprofitable as it gets," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"ESPN is likely giving this Dish play what Dish has already been paying, with that meaning that the fee is $5 or so just for that one channel," noted Brannon.

"That is a big chunk of what Dish is able to charge, so the question is how low Sling TV can really go," he added. "Content owners have been unwilling to unbundle -- so even with this new move, we may not be there yet."

On the flip side, Sling TV could offer additional tiers of content, but that in turn would raise the price.

"It starts at $20 -- but as you add packages, suddenly the price is back at a level of spend of what you'd spend with traditional services," explained Ireland. "However, this could still provide choice and alternative to the traditional market. Dish has a jump start, and it is likely other providers will seriously consider it too."

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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