The cost of Pay-TV has jumped over 70% since 2000, according to research company Kagan, which took inflation into account. With prices skyrocketing, it’s no mystery why people are ditching their cable service for the more affordable “skinny bundle.” Catching on to this shift in viewing habits, cable companies have invested heavily into launching their own low-priced “skinny bundles.” Dish was one of the first to jump on the scene with its OTT TV offering Sling TV. Since then, the company has dominated the landscape, but, as Bob Dylan is famous for saying, times they are a changing.
Sling TV is no longer the only player in the game. Over the past two years, several OTT TV services from big name companies have joined the party. YouTube, Hulu, and AT&T have all launched their own streaming TV service and so have other competitors like Philo, Fubo TV, Pluto TV, and Xumo. With so much competition things are bound to get tougher for Dish’s once dominate digital TV service — and they already are thanks to AT&T.
In 2017, the telco’s DirecTV Now OTT TV service added 1 million users vs. just 700,000 for Sling TV. Despite the strong growth of DirecTV Now, at the end of Q4 2017, Sling TV still held the lead. But, AT&T just released it Q1 2018 earnings report and at the rate its growing, it’s going to be a tough 2018 for Sling. In Q1 2018, DirecTV Now added 312,000 customers — 240,000 more subscribers than the prior quarter — and now serves a total of 1.4 million subscribers. Part of AT&T’s advantage is its ability to leverage its cellphone plans to lure customers to its OTT service. To make matters worse, the telco is also planning to launch a more affordable OTT TV service it has dubbed AT&T Watch. The new service will be free for AT&T’s customers on the company’s Unlimited Wireless plan. This could encourage AT&T wireless customers who also subscribe to Sling TV, to drop the Dish service in favor of a free AT&T Watch subscription.
Another issue for Sling TV is its slowing growth. While DirecTV NOW, fuboTV and Hulu have all seen significant growth over the last year, Sling TV has seen its level of growth slow down over the same period, according to new data released by Apptopia. DirecTV Now saw its number of MAU grow by 185-percent between March 2017 and March 2018, fuboTV saw a similar level of growth (170%) over the same time-frame while Hulu saw the least growth with 163%. Sling TV, on the other hand, was noted as not seeing any growth between March 2017 and March 2018. Instead, the data suggests the use of Sling TV’s mobile app actually fell by 34% over the year. It is important to note that this is not the actual number of users of the Sling TV app but the growth of those MAU that fell.
From the looks of it, Sling TV is going to have to step up its game if it wants to remain dominate in the industry. Of course, this picture will become much more clear once Dish releases its Q1 2018 earnings report and reveals how much its OTT TV service has actually grown.