$20 Sling TV by Dish Network Will Test Theories about Potential Streaming Markets

Dish Network, at long last, is launching a $20-a-month TV streaming service that notably includes ESPN and 11 other channels.

Sling TV is the first stand-alone streaming service that does not require a prior subscription to a linear video service, and importantly will include ESPN. That matters because, up to this point, live sports programming has been known as a “firewall” against greater cord cutting. Pre-recorded video is available from the major streaming services and from some of the networks directly.

But live sports have been unavailable in a streaming service. So ESPN will provide a major test of live sports exclusivity on linear subscription services, and the ability of live sports to glue subscribers to linear video.

Sling TV will offer live feeds of sports, news and scripted shows on TVs, computers and mobile devices, with programming  from ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel as part of the 12-channel package.

But, so far, no broadcast TV networks or the most-watched cable news channel, Fox News, are part of the package.

The $20 Sling TV base package features add-on packs with additional kids and news programming, available for $5 each.

Most observers would say a package including the major local TV networks plus sports and perhaps HBO is the likeliest candidate for a winning, but stripped-down, streaming package. So the Sling TV will not be a full test of that thesis.

Still, the availability of ESPN is a big deal, as it attacks the “live sports firewall” that most believe props up demand for linear TV services.

Dish is betting that Sling TV will prove attractive to Millennial consumers not interested in traditional linear video packages. But the package also might appeal to families with children.

To be sure, some studies suggest Millennials actually buy linear video subscriptions at a higher rate than often assumed. Some 62 percent to 65 percent of Millennials surveyed by Deloitte in 2012 reported they bought subscription TV services and had no plans to change.

Other studies suggest a significant minority of Millennials do not buy linear TV services, though.

Sling TV will test the theory that “skinny” packages of programming will satisfy some consumers unhappy with the traditional linear packages, unwilling to spend so much on linear video and more willing to watch streaming content, especially when consumers can receive over the air programming directly on their TVs.
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