Sling TV is making a big play in an attempt to remain relevant in a growing ecosystem of OTT TV services.
The Dish-owned streaming service had a couple of announcements today. One — a 25% price hike to its base package — that wasn’t so great, and another — the introduction of free content for ex-subscribers — that could have a positive impact on its overall performance as competition from rival services heats up.
Launched in 2015, Sling was the first “skinny bundle” on the market and enjoyed a temporary position as the only streaming TV service for a short time. However, fast forward three years, and there are more than five similar services available to consumers — and some of them are catching up fast in terms of subscriber count. While the most recent data puts Sling TV in the ballpark of 2.3 million subscribers, AT&T’s Direct TV now — which launched nearly two years after the Dish-owned service — had 1.4 million subscribers at the end of Q1 2018 (a growth of 500% Y/Y). In addition to DirecTV Now’s exploding growth, Hulu’s Live TV service, launched in May 2017, now has 800,000 subscribers.
To make matters worse for Sling, companies like AT&T and Philo have launched even skinnier bundles with a starting price between $15-$16/mo (and AT&T is bundling its skinnier bundle, Watch, with its mobile plans!). Now in an effort to bring back customers who might have jumped ship for these more affordable OTT TV services (or a free one like Pluto.TV or Xumo) the company is offering a small package of free content for returning subscribers.
With the new update, once a user cancels their subscription, they can log back into the platform where they will have access to more than 100 hours of free TV shows and movies without restarting their subscription. These ex Sling members can also purchase select channels, such as Showtime or the NBA League Pass, in an à la carte fashion and watch them through the Sling TV app, without the need for a base subscription.
Starting today, Sling’s base package will cost new subscribers $25 per month, up from $20 per month. Existing subscribers won’t feel the burn until August. Hopefully, for the company, it won’t ruffle their customer’s feathers too much, but it’s possible that a portion of existing subscribers will search for cheaper alternatives or switch from Sling’s base package to its free content.
At launch, content in Sling TV’s free section will include HGTV, History, TBS, “and more.” As of now, there are no plans of offering the free programming to consumers that have never signed up for the service.