CES: Dish Goes After Millennials With Sling TV Alternative to Cable, Satellite

Monday Night Football Opening Portrait - P 2013

Monday Night Football Opening Portrait - P 2013

Dish Network has lined up ESPN and other networks for a service with a base cost of $20 a month

Dish Network recognizes that millennials aren't subscribing to pay TV and they're hoping to make that segment of consumers new customers with the introduction of Sling TV, an over-the-top service that costs $20 a month with no contract beyond a month-to-month commitment. 

Dish announced Sling TV, which has no direct connection with Slingbox or Sling Media (although both have a link to EchoStar, the parent of Disney Network), at CES on Monday, when CEO Joe Clayton introduced it as "a brand for this consumer segment" that "offers our new customers programming that is tailored to their wants and needs."

Dish says Sling TV will launch in the coming weeks with between 25 and 30 channels, including ESPN and ESPN2, which could have huge appeal to sports fans who have had to buy a full cable or satellite package to get those channels. Other channels available include TNT, TBS, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and the Disney Channel. This is not an a la carte service (you can’t buy one channel at a time) and it will include the carriage of commercials. It also does not include local TV signals, which means there is no need for Sling TV to pay those huge retransmission license fees.

The list of content is limited in order to keep the price low. There are going to be additional bundles that can be purchased for an additional fee, starting with kids' networks and news, both of which will cost an extra $5 a month.

Dish apparently was able to get rights to retransmit ESPN from the Walt Disney Company as part of a larger agreement worked out in May that included retransmission of ABC channels and cable services. It is unclear if all ESPN programming will be available day and date; and there are going to be some live programs that won’t be available on mobile due to a separate agreement Disney’s sports service has with Verizon.

Dish executive Roger Lynch, who has become the new CEO of Sling TV, told the crowd at CES that the service is a direct response to concerns about the decline in pay TV customers. "Pay TV is no longer a utility like gas, electric and home phones, remember those?" he quipped. Dish made clear during the presentation that it doesn't expect Sling TV to cannibalize existing Dish customers but bring in a new group of customers that would be unlikely to subscribe to pay TV.

While other OTT services have been attempted, and Sony has one in a test stage, this appears to be the first mass-market service aimed at those who do not and will not take the full cable or satellite bundle of networks.

Sling TV can be watched over the Internet using a number of low-priced devices including Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Nexus Player, Roku, Windows PC, Xbox One and LG Smart TVs. It includes features such as fast forward, pause and rewind capabilities and three-day replay of certain live events. In some cases it will also offer on-demand viewing of certain shows that have already aired. 

As part of the launch of Sling TV, Dish is rebranding international TV service DishWorld as Sling International. The company says it also plans to launch targeted services such as Sling Latino in the future.