TV Answer Man, I saw your tweet about Sling TV losing subscribers and I wonder why. I use it and like it a lot for the price. Why aren’t they getting more subscribers? — Teresa, Boulder, Colorado.
Teresa, you’re right. Dish, which owns the live streaming service, reported last week that Sling TV lost a net of 100,000 subscribers in the first quarter. That left Sling with 2.37 million subscribers at the end of March.
The defections raised some industry eyebrows considering that live streaming is supposed to be a growth category with cord-cutting on the rise. At $35 a month, Sling is considerably cheaper than cable and satellite, and even other live streamers such as FuboTV, YouTube TV and Hulu Live, all of which start at $64.99 a month. (AT&T TV’s base price is $69.99 a month.)
But although Sling was the first live streaming service in the market (launching in January 2015), the venture has sputtered despite some early successes. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has even lamented publicly that Sling TV should have a bigger market share by now. (Hulu Live and YouTube TV both have roughly four million subscribers, although they launched a year or two after Sling.)
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So why is Sling TV losing subscribers rather than gaining them?
1. Price Increase
Sling in January raised its base price for new customers from $30 a month to $35 a month.
Existing customers will not see a price increase until August 1, 2021 at the earliest (Sling TV last year implemented a one-year price freeze for current subscribers), but the hike likely caused some new customers to hesitate before signing up. If Sling raises prices on existing subscribers in late summer, it could generate more losses.
2. Sling TV Ends Free Trials
Sling in March also removed its 3-day free trial at its web site, another move that likely eliminated some new customer business. Cost-cutters have become accustomed to using free trials to check out a service before subscribing.
3. Channel Omissions
Sling is still not carrying several popular channels due to company cost-cutting, most notably the regional sports channels. (Ergen has repeatedly said the regional sports nets are asking for too much money.) This allows the service to keep its monthly price lower, but it’s clearly coming at a cost.
4. Live Streaming Could Be Fading
Live streaming was an instant success in the first few years thanks to eye-popping low monthly prices. (Sling was just $20 a month in the early days while DIRECTV Now, now called AT&T TV, was just $10 a month for the first three months.) But the escalating cost of program acquisition has forced the streamers to significantly raise their prices, and jettison some channels considered too costly to carry, such as regional sports. Consumer infatuation with live streaming could be fading.
With Dish in charge, and still carrying a reasonable monthly base price, Sling TV can regain its momentum. But it might take a greater investment in programming and technology than Dish might want to take.
Teresa, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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Why can’t Sling carry “The Regional Sports Channels” as an ADD ON ?
for an Extra cost, like HBO, etc.
It is better to get something, $$, Rather than Nothing, and loose customers
Sinclair(owns Bally Sports) won’t let them add this a la carte. That is the whole issue. Sling is based on an a la carte experience. Sinclair wants to charge every Sling sub.
Another reason people do not subscribe to Sling TV is local channels are not available on the service in most markets. Only the Fox & NBC Affiliates are available on the Sling TV Blue plan in select markets. While Sling TV promotes an Antenna & Locast for local channels, these options are not available for many people. Many people who are interested in a live TV streaming service want a more complete package with local channels such as YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, Fubo TV , & AT&T TV despite having a higher monthly price than Sling TV. Also with the creation of many new on demand streaming services to join Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon Prime Video such as Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, & Paramount+, many people are deciding to subscribe to their favorite on demand streaming services & not a live TV streaming service. Still I feel like Sling TV is a discount live TV streaming services similar to Philo & Frndly.
We looked at it and ended up with YTTV when we left Dish. Very quickly eliminated it due to a lack of local channels, and an antenna for OTA was not an option. My guess is for most people lack of locals is a very big deal. I know from my Dish days, with their frequent fights with local network providers, they acted as if local weren’t all that big a deal, just get an antenna. But that doesn’t work for a lot of people, and others just don’t want the hassle when other providers have them integrated into the guide, DVR, etc.
In my area, it costs about $22 more to get cable + internet compared to just internet from the cable company. For that $22 delta I get the local channels, including Bally, ESPN, FS1 and the Golf channel, which is what I watch.Thanks Dish and the other OTTs for forcing the cable companies to compete. It’s a tough business.
Basic cable isn’t what it used to be. I can’t find much worth watching today. With all the ads – what is out there, is unbearable to watch. We should be paid to watch these channels instead of the other way around.