TV Answer Man, I like Sling TV because it’s a cheap way to watch sports with ESPN and ESPN 3. But now they don’t have ESPN, I can’t see staying with them. What’s the point without ESPN? — Darrell, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Darrell, live streamer Sling TV, and its parent company, Dish, this morning lost all Disney-owned channels, including the ESPN networks, in a carriage dispute with Disney.
Sling, which charges just $35 a month for either its base Orange (which has ESPN) or Blue plans, has relied heavily on ESPN since it launched in January 2015. The streamer, which has 2.2 million subscribers, has been a relatively inexpensive go-to service for many cord-cutters who still want to watch a lot of sports. Sling had all the ESPN live events and programs, and although it doesn’t carry ABC, you could watch ABC’s live sports on ESPN3 with your Sling TV user name and password.
But without ESPN, many young Sling subscribers will likely soon look for another way to whet their sports appetite. Unlike Dish, which comes with two-year contracts with termination penalties, there’s no agreement with Sling TV. You can quit at any time without paying a penalty. That’s been a positive in attracting new subscribers but it’s about to become a major negative for the live streamer.
In addition, unlike Dish again, Sling TV does not have a large audience in rural markets where video choice is limited due to a lack of Internet access. Sling’s subscribers obviously have the Internet so they have access to a wide range of programming choices, including Sling’s live streaming rivals, FuboTV, Hulu Live, DIRECTV Stream and YouTube TV. While those four options are more expensive than Sling (YouTube TV is the cheapest with a $64.99 base price), they are still less expensive than most cable and satellite TV services.
Bottom line: Sling TV, which has lost 10 percent of its subscriber base in the last year, cannot afford a protracted blackout with Disney. It could cripple the service and possibly put it on a path to going out of business.
To find out if the Disney fee fight will hurt Dish, click here.
Darrell, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann