Traditional TV, based on the three-legs of cable, satellite, and over-the-air (OTA) broadcast, received its pink slip today. Dish Network has launched its first Internet video service, Sling TV. This new $19.99 service offers viewers a variety of popular cable channels including ESPN and ESPN2.
Sling TV comes with many other formerly cable only channels -- TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Disney Channel, CNN, El Rey, and Galavision. It will also be adding the movie channel AMC, ESPN3 , Maker Studios, and Polaris+, a new online gaming network to its lineup in the next few weeks. The AMC deal will also give Dish the right to broadcast BBC AMERICA, BBC World News, IFC, Sundance TV, and WE tv.
That's a lot of television, but it's Dish's offering of ESPN and ESPN2 that spells trouble for traditional cable and satellite TV providers. It's accepted wisdom in the television industry that live sports are how cable and satellite companies keep subscribers despite their high prices. The numbers support this. By AdWeek's count, the ESPN networks average more than double the viewers of the next most popular cable networks, USA and TBS.
At CES, Dish CEO Joe Clayton said that Sling TV was "aimed squarely at the millennial audience -- those 18- to 35-year-olds, who represent a market virtually untouched by the pay TV industry today." I'm sure that millennials won't be the only ones flocking to Sling TV.
According to SNL Kagan, the media and communications analyst company, the number of American households that pay for broadband Internet but skip cable television increased by 16 percent from 9.2 million in 2012 to 10.6 million in 2014. At the same time, Parks Associates has found that 10 percent of US broadband households already purchased a streaming media device in 2014.
The base $19.99 Sling TV package comes with a free 7-day trial. The service will require no long-term commitment, annual contract, credit check, or hardware installation, and customers can cancel online anytime.
In addition to the base package, Sling TV is offering three other packages: "Sports Extra," "Kids Extra" and "News & Info Extra" add-on pack. The Sports Extra package comes with the ESPN/SEC Network, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Universal Sports, Univision Deportes, beIN Sports, and college sports live cut-in and highlights networks ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Bases Loaded, and ESPN Goal Line. Kids Extra includes Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV, and Duck TV. The News & Info Extra package has HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV. Each of these is priced at an additional $5 per month.
To watch Sling TV you'll need to use the Sling TV app on iOS, Android, Macs or Windows PCs. You will also be able to watch it on current-generation Roku devices. In a few months, Sling TV will launch on Google's Nexus Player, webOS Smart TVs from LG Electronics, select Samsung Smart TVs, and Xbox One. Later, other streaming devices and smart TVs will be supported.
We're not quite at an a la carte Internet TV world yet, but we're on our way. The arrival of live sports, combined with other major networks such as CBS, HBO, Showtime, and Univison bringing out their own Internet "channels" in 2015, makes it certain that the way we watch TV will be changing radically soon.