nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Dish Sling TV needs work to reach millennials

Sling TV from Dish

Dish announced details of its soon to be released OTT TV service targeting millennials, called Sling TV. 12 cable channels, including ESPN, for $20 a month and no commitments. Will it be enough to bring the young audience?

The technical implementation looks very promising. Virtually all the devices a millennial could want to use appear to be supported in the first release. The two most important millennial screens, the PC and smartphone, seem to be well covered with support for iOS, Android, PC and Mac. Other devices expected for the first release include Amazon Fire TV STB and Stick, Google’s Nexus Player, select LG Smart TVs, Roku players, Roku TV models, select Samsung Smart TVs, and Xbox One. Notably absent from the list are PS4 and Chromecast.

The service will only support one stream at a time. For millennials, this is perhaps less of concern than for older age groups. Many millennials are still single and, when multiple people do want to watch together there is the option to use a connected TV.

Of bigger concern is the lack of recording capability. Though Dish states that subscribers will be able to pause, rewind and fast-forward most channels, the ability to watch time-delayed is limited to 3 days and only for “some shows.”

The contract terms seem in tune with the millennial market. Subscribers are only committed for the current month of service and there is no tie to a full satellite TV subscription.

On the content side, the service seems very underpowered for the market Dish is aiming at. Included in the base $20 a month package are 12 channels billed as the “Best of Live TV”: ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN. At first glance, this appears to be missing some essentials. Comedy Central and MTV seems almost mandatory for the millennial market, yet are not included. According to the Barna Group, the top five shows among millennials are The Big Bang Theory (CBS), The Walking Dead (AMC), American Horror Story (FX), NCIS (CBS) and Game of Thrones (HBO). None of these shows are available via Sling TV.

Dish says subscribers can extend the base offering with two add-on packages at $5 a month each. The kids add-on includes Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV and the “News and Info Extra” provdes HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV. The company says there will be a “Sports Extra” package coming soon. Significantly, there is no “locals” add-on, which would have delivered local broadcast channels from CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. Last year, it was rumored that Dish wanted to offer local broadcast channels in a separate tier. However, CBS seems to have scuppered that idea when it withheld OTT rights from Dish in favor of its own CBS All Access service.

The omission of local broadcasters has another problematic impact on the millennials market. NFL is very popular with young men. ESPN only carries one game, Monday night. All the rest are handled by the broadcasters.

While Sling TV’s technical implementation and business terms seem like a good fit for millennials, the content selection feels more like “This is what we could get” rather than the “Best of Live TV”. Dish will have to sharpen the content selection if it is to find success with the young.

Why it matters

In order to capture the younger audience, TV operators need to create more flexible, cost effective solutions.

Dish’s new OTT TV service, Sling TV, seems to have the flexibility to deliver to millennials on their device of choice, under business terms they may find acceptable.

However, the content selection needs a lot of work if it is to be broadly embraced by the target market.

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