Update (1/11 10:00am): Sling TV is now accepting requests to try its service, it is currently invite-only so you’ll have to submit your information and hope for the opportunity to get in early!
DISH is looking to revolutionize home entertainment by offering a smaller package of popular channels, without contract, for just $20 per month. Focusing on a handful of popular channels has allowed for DISH to put together a competitive product, dubbed Sling TV, that falls between the Netflix/Hulu and full cable TV price points. With ESPN, TNT and TBS, Sling TV is making a strong case for your living room.
There are however a few key differences from other offerings that make this an interesting proposition, including a special offer for Xbox One users.
For a few years now, ala carte television has been an often discussed idea but has yet to be executed in a meaningful way. Well, the reality is that Sling TV is not that and for the foreseeable future doesn’t appear to be headed in that direction. Sling TV is a smaller television package that happens to only function on internet enabled devices. DISH wants it be be an addition to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO rather than a cable replacement.
The pricing here is key: at $20 it is primarily at a price point by itself, with the only comparable being some local channel-only packages offered by cable companies. While local broadcast stations are not available via the Sling TV, that is easily solved by an over-the-air antenna. The initial line-up of stations includes ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, ABC Family and the Disney Channel. Additional $5 packages will be available with a focus on news and children’s programming.
As far as programming is concerned, the big news here is ESPN. Previously, the sports conglomerate was not available as a stand-alone option, while it still requires the inclusion of some other channels this is a huge step in the right direction for sports fans. If you’re wondering the breakdown on per channel pricing, ESPN currently gets $6.04 per subscriber according to the Wall Street Journal, which is a significant jump from the average $.14 per channel. In comparison, the other nine channels in the line-up typically run cable companies $6.00, leaving about $8 to be made by Sling TV before additional operating costs.
Intially, Sling TV will be available on a myriad of devices including Amazon Fire TV, LG Smart HDTVs, Roku-enabled devices, iPhone and iPad, Mac OS X, Windows PCs and Xbox One. The key here being Microsoft’s gaming console, which will offer its users a free one month trial of Sling TV service while the PlayStation 4 gets left out in the cold. At the start, the subscription will get users one stream at a time, so if you start watching something on your Xbox One and another user in your house starts watching on a Fire TV, the first stream will stop.
As someone who has bounced back-and-forth between pay TV and cable services because of my dependency on sports, I see Sling TV being a huge coup for Microsoft and the Xbox One. The free trial will be very tempting to Millennial gamers that do not want to be locked-in to a contract cable subscription and are looking for flexibility in their media consumption. If I just want to have Sling TV during football and basketball season, I can do that and opt-out during the summer months without being hammered by fees. Additionally, simplifying it all down to a single black box that can handle my gaming, streaming and on-demand needs is a perfect fit for me.
Ultimately, it is yet to be seen how this new offering will affect the television world. One notable exception on the list of streaming devices is the Apple TV, although we do not know if they were even asked to be apart of the service. We’ve long assumed that Apple will eventually make its own foray into the television world, with a more complete media consumption option than its now out-of-date Apple TV offering. We will certainly be keeping an eye out on Sling TV, hopefully it will create a more competitive television marketplace that will give users more options at a lesser price. The release date for Sling TV has yet to be announced as it is currently in the beta and private testing phase.
During the first day of CES 2015, DISH also announced its latest Joey DVR that brings 4K video to its Hopper whole-home HD DVR system. While compatible with HDTVs, the 4K Joey offers features such as Bluetooth and Picture-in-Picture capabilities that are welcome additions. The mountable receiver is the thinnest receiver made by DISH, making it a nice candidate to be mounted out of sight behind a television.
Continue to check in with 9to5 for all the best CES 2015 products and announcements coming directly off the show floor.