Q. I read yesterday at your site that DIRECTV Now is adding a lot more subscribers than Sling TV. I don’t understand why that would be. I have Sling and I love it. I tried DIRECTV Now and hated it. What’s up with this? — Marie, Denver, Colorado.
Marie, Dish, which owns Sling TV, yesterday said the live streaming service added a net of 91,000 subscribers in the first quarter.
But AT&T, which owns DIRECTV Now, Sling’s chief live streaming rival, said last month that it added a net of 312,000 subscribers in the first quarter.
Those numbers might seem to indicate that DIRECTV Now is doing better right now, at least in terms of adding subscribers. But before you jump to that conclusion, keep in mind these two facts.
1. Sling TV, which launched in January 2015, had 2.303 million paying subscribers at the end of the first quarter. DIRECTV Now, which launched in November 2016, had 1.46 million paying customers at the end of the first quarter. So, Sling still has roughly 800,000 more subscribers than DIRECTV Now.
2. During the first quarter, DIRECTV Now was running a special promotion that would reduce its base $35 a month plan to $10 a month for the first three months. (Note: The promotion is still available.) That’s $10 a month cheaper than Sling’s base price of $20 a month.
Money talks so it’s hard to draw any other conclusion. DIRECTV Now’s promotion was a major reason for the better subscriber numbers in the first quarter. Sling’s $20 plan has helped drive its subscriber effort since its launch so a plan that $10 cheaper is bound to do even better.
When you take into account that DIRECTV Now’s $10 plan offers more channels than Sling’s $20 package, it becomes even more obvious that the lower price was the chief reason for its success. Consumers love to comparison-shop.
It will be interesting to see if DIRECTV Now can keep its $10 subscribers from defecting when their three-month promotions expire. But for now, it’s working, as evidenced by the first quarter numbers.
— Phillip Swann