Dish has announced Sling TV, a new Internet TV service that includes 12 live programming channels and costs only $20 a month. The service is designed for cord-cutters, or customers who have stopped paying up to a hundred dollars for the traditional cable bundle that includes hundreds of channels they don't really watch.
Last year, Dish was reported to have been targeting a summer debut for its new online TV service but has come up with nothing since the reports. At this year's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Dish finally revealed its plans for a new kind of service that is set to turn around the cable industry as we know it.
Included in the $20 Sling TV package are a dozen channels including ESPN and ESPN2, two channels that Dish President and CEO Joe Clayton claims will become a major selling point in Sling TV.
"It's the thing a lot of people really miss when they don't have a pay TV service," he says. "They want live sports. They want ESPN and ESPN 2."
Customers will also get their share of news, family and lifestyle channels with the inclusion of TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and CNN. Dish, which makes it a point to emphasize that Sling is an entirely separate entity, says customers will also be able to throw in various add-ons for $5. For example, the Kids Extra will include Disney Junior, Disney XD, Baby TV and Duck TV, while a News & Info Extra will add HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV. Sling is also working on a Sports Extra that it says is "coming soon."
Sling TV customers can avail of the service "in the coming months" and can do so without tethering themselves to a monthly contract. The service will be compatible with a wide range of devices, including Mac and PC, iOS and Android, Xbox One, Google's Nexus Player, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku and Roku TV and select smart TVs by Samsung and LG. It is not, however, compatible with the Apple TV because of Apple's strict design requirements, but users can stream from their iPhones or iPads to their Apple TV and "mirror" it to their TV sets.
"Consumers can now watch their favorite shows on their favorite devices that they already use to watch video. Live television, including ESPN, for $20 per month with no commitment or contract, is a game changer," says Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch. "The arrival of Sling TV lets consumers, who've embraced services like Netflix and Hulu, take more control of their video entertainment experience."
Until now, most Internet TV services, such as the upcoming HBO GO and CBS' All Access streaming service, have come from the networks. Dish, however, is the first pay TV provider to offer the closest thing to an a la carte TV service where users are given the chance to choose which networks to include in their package. Normally, cable companies block the success of smaller outfits, such as Aereo, offering Internet TV services for much lower prices by taking them to court, but Dish is the first major pay TV company to embrace the new business model.
Questions still exist, however, as to how Dish plans to raise profits from Sling TV. It is said that ESPN alone costs cable providers $6 to offer to subscribers. Dish says it will sign up "millions" of customers for its new service, but a source cited by Re/code says ESPN has inserted a clause in its contract with Dish that it will pull out once a certain number of subscribers is reached.