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Dish CEO: Sling TV Sub Growth Seasonal

6 Aug, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Sling TV, with about 1.7 million subscribers, is the largest online TV service. But its subscriber growth is seasonal and at the whim of special programming, including sports, according to Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen.

And that could be a bad thing for Dish’s core satellite TV operations.

Since launching in 2015 as the first online TV service, $20 monthly Sling TV has more than four times the subs of AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which launched last December. Sling’s subs have helped offset Dish’s ongoing subscriber free-fall, which included almost 340,000 video subs through the first six months of the year.

Speaking Aug. 4 on the company's fiscal call, Ergen was asked if Sling TV could continue current subscriber growth patterns.

“That remains to be seen … because we'll have to see how the year turns out,” Ergen said.

The executive intimated that the appeal of Sling TV, which includes low monthly cost and personalized channel selection, is hamstrung by the lack of a long-term contract with the consumer.

“People will buy for ‘Game of Thrones’ and watch it for a month and then turn off the service,” Ergen said. “They'll buy for  abaseball season or football season and then turn it off."

The executive said Sling would ramp up targeting subs with specific ad insertions — technology at the heart of Internet TV. At the same time, Ergen admits the days of keeping a traditional pay-TV customer from seven to 10 years is over.

“Now, the customer has multiple choices,” he said. “My gut feel is that OTT is still in its infancy, and it's going to see a lot of growth ahead, Sling included.”

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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