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Sling TV: Cutting the Cord, Cutting Back on Content

Can Dish Network’s online service compete with pay-TV packages that offer more?

DIRECT.TV is not affiliated with Dish and is operated by DirectStarTV, a DIRECTV authorized dealer. Sling TV information sourced from Dish.com, Forbes, and The New York Times on 1/8/15.

Ironically enough, the latest product targeting traditional subscription TV comes from none other than a noted provider of traditional subscription TV.

Dish Network chose the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show as the venue to introduce Sling TV, an Internet-only service aimed at cord-cutting millennials. A satellite TV company offering an alternative to satellite TV? Dish’s CEO insists that the new, cheaper product won’t cannibalize the company’s satellite subscription business because those packages don’t appeal to the 18-to-35 demographic.

For $20 per month, Sling TV subscribers get programming delivered online to their TVs, computers or devices. However, the more important consideration might be the things that Sling TV subscribers don’t get.

Less Bang for the Buck

Although the selection is expected to expand over time, the current core package for Sling TV offers just 12 channels (add-on packages cost extra). Now compare the new Dish product to a typical satellite subscription package. With 130+ channels for $19.99 a month (SELECT™ Package. For 12 months with 24 mo. agreement. Plus add’l fees) – essentially the same price as Sling TV – the DIRECTV SELECT™ package offers more than 10 times as many channels.

Sling TV

Cost per channel = About $1.67


Cost per channel = About 15¢

No Broadcast or Local Programming

It’s not just a matter of programming quantity. The Sling TV lineup has CNN, Disney Channel, TBS and other familiar names, but it doesn’t include the broadcast networks that deliver some of TV’s most popular shows. And if you rely on ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC affiliates for local news and sports coverage, including your hometown NFL team, Sling TV would leave you with another gap in programming.

The DIRECTV SELECT™ package does offer these broadcast channels, as well as Bravo, MTV and other channels not included in Sling TV’s current core package.

Less Flexibility for Viewers

Recording is another area of comparison that doesn’t favor the Dish online service – namely because Sling TV doesn’t offer it.

With a programming package like The DIRECTV SELECT™ package, you can get HD DVR service (for an additional cost) that allows you to record programs and play them back at your leisure. That capability isn’t available with Sling TV, which substitutes an on-demand feature instead.

Alternative, But Not Earth-Shaking

Many business ventures succeed by offering more for less, but offering less for less seems like a dubious proposition. Despite being marketed as an alternative to traditional pay-TV services, Sling TV doesn’t appear to be a weapon capable of bringing down giants.

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