Satellite television provider Dish Network on Monday announced its long-awaited streaming television service, knocking over the first domino in a chain that could eventually disrupt the cable and satellite TV business.
Dish unveiled its new service, called Sling TV, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. What is notable about the $20-per-month service is its content, including CNN, TNT, and, most notably, the sports giant ESPN, channels previously found only in expensive cable and satellite television packages. The fact that these networks are willing to partner with Dish on a new approach to television points to a major change in the market for subscription services.
In the traditional television market, programmers compensate cable and satellite providers based on often-contentious retransmission fees. If a new revenue model emerges that both content owners like ESPN and providers like Dish find acceptable, services like Sling TV will find room to mature and eventually compete with offerings from Comcast and Time Warner.
In addition to Disney-owned ESPN, Sling TV—which is confusingly unrelated to Dish’s Slingbox TV-streaming device—includes the Scripps family of programming (Food, Travel, and HGTV) and the Turner content roster (TBS, TNT, and CNN). Sling TV will also deliver webseries from companies like Maker Studios. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for advertisers; Dish can apply Nielsen viewership tracking to its services, adding verifiable audience measurement to web content for the first time.
Sling TV’s $20 package is, in cable package lingo, only the “basic tier.” For extra fees, cord-cutters can add in themed content aimed at kids, news junkies, and sports fans. Sling TV will be available on most streaming devices, including Amazon Fire, Roku, and a host of smart TVs. For the time being, live broadcast TV is not included, but broadcast channels are always available over the air using an indoor digital antenna.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III