LAS VEGAS -- Dish Network on Monday launched a low-cost bundle of cable channels geared toward people who don’t want to subscribe to traditional cable TV. The service, called Sling TV, costs $20 a month and won’t include broadcast channels like ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC, channels available elsewhere for free. It will initially include a package of 12 cable channels including ESPN, Cartoon Network, CNN and Travel Channel.
The service is targeted at so-called cord-cutters, which is really a misnomer because subscribers still need a broadband connection. It’s a bet some of those disconnecting from cable, or those who've never subscribed at all, would want a smaller, cheaper package of channels to augment other streaming services like Netflix, iTunes, Hulu or Amazon, as well as online services like Vevo and online video from Maker Studios.
"All you need is a credit card and a broadband connection," said Dish Network CEO Joseph P. Clayton, at a presentation at the International CES in Las Vegas. "The content offering will include 25 to 30 channels and we expect more to come."
Dish Network has spent four years negotiating with cable networks, wary of licensing a service that provides an alternative to the “bundle” of cable channels offered by cable and satellite that has been so profitable. The breakthrough followed the CBS launch of a streaming network and HBO plans to offer its service independent of cable and satellite providers in 2015.
"Millennials reject the big, bigger, biggest pay-TV model," said Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch. "We think this can get the pay-TV industry growing again." Clayton said he doesn’t believe offering the service will cannibalize pay-TV subscribers “because we are not reaching these people today.”
Unlike with wired cable, Lynch said anyone can subscribe or unsubscribe at any time -- no installers involved. Of course, it relies on a broadband connection still controlled by the likes of Comcast and Verizon.
Sling TV will come packaged with Amazon Fire TV, Google Nexus Player, some LG and Samsung TVs and Microsoft’s Xbox One, as well as iOS- and Android-powered smartphones and tablets. The service will be made widely available in the first quarter of 2015.
It's a sign Dish Network is diversifying away from the traditional satellite TV business. On the satellite TV front, Dish made a play for the opposite end of the spectrum, high-end TV subscribers, unveiling what it calls the first set-top box that accommodates Ultra-HD 4K video. Now it just needs to convince cable networks to make content for it.