Dish Network Goes Over the Top With New Sling TV Option

The new subscription-based bundle of channels is aimed at the younger, 18-to-35 age group viewers who don't want to pay for a big cable package.

Dish Network on Jan. 5 announced at CES 2015 that it is activating its long-anticipated video-streaming service, called Sling TV, which will become a new low-cost alternative to standard cable network offerings.

The satellite TV provider was clear to note that Sling TV is not connected to Sling Media, the Foster City, Calif.-based company known for its popular Sling Box devices that enable users to watch TV across multiple screens within a household.

Sling TV, an Englewood, Colo.-based subsidiary of Dish Network, will make live cable TV available in a subscription-based package for over-the-top (out of standard cable provider) viewing. The service is aimed at the large numbers of broadband users—mostly younger, 18-to-35 age group viewers—who don't want to pay for a big cable package.

Sling TV is hoping its small bundle of channels will appeal to users who don't want to pay $100 or more per month for hundreds of channels just to get the few shows they really want to watch.

Smaller Bundle for More Specific Viewing

The financials can be a major motivator for a potential Sling TV customer. Full cable packages via providers such as Comcast and AT&T can cost anywhere from $90 to $175 per month, depending upon the level of service and add-on features, such as rentable DVRs, high-definition boxes and others.

The service, the first from a major U.S. television distributor, will be available through connected devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Google Nexus Player for televisions, tablets, computers and smartphones. It will include television programming and sports events from Disney's ABC, ESPN and Maker Studios, Time Warner's TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, and Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel.

Maker Studios is a new video channel that will look like a live TV channel and feature videos from the Disney network's vast resources. In addition to its basic package, Sling TV will have add-on packs—options that will enable subscribers to pay extra to get more content from a specific genre.

For example, for an additional $5 per month, subscribers can sign up for the Kids Extra pack, which includes networks such as Disney Junior and Boomerang. There is also an option for the News & Info Extra pack, which includes the Cooking Channel, HLN and Bloomberg News.

Major Networks Not Available on New Service

Potential customers need to be aware about some big holes in the service, at least at the outset. The initial bundle will not include most major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) or feature channels, such as AMC, FX, TCM or Golf Channel.

As to why the major television networks won't be available on Sling TV, CEO Roger Lynch said that's because most consumers are able to find programming from those networks elsewhere—such as on Hulu or Roku. They could also simply connect a digital antenna to their TVs as an alternative, he said.

Sling TV will be a single-stream service, which means only one device will be able to access the stream at a time. Don't try and use an iPad or a smartphone at the same time as a TV, because one of them won't work.

Sling TV also doesn't enable DVRs to save content for later, but that may change in the future.

Dish Network has about 14 million subscribers, making it the second-largest U.S. satellite TV provider behind AT&T-owned DirectTV. However, the company said it lost about 12,000 pay-TV subscribers in the third quarter of 2014 compared with the previous quarter, so it believed the time was right to launch Sling TV.

Younger Viewers Not Buying Standard Cable TV

Dish CEO Joe Clayton (pictured) told Reuters that the 18-to-35-year-old target demographic is not buying pay TV and that Sling TV will be complementary to its usual package. "We are not only launching a new product category but a new industry," Clayton said.

Nonetheless, Dish is walking a tightrope with viewers, because while it is offering a new alternative for some viewers, it does not want to encourage its current full-ride customers to dump its more costly core satellite service.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...