Dish Network is jumping into the TV-over-the-internet fray with Sling TV, a service that will let customers stream a selection of cable channels including ESPN to a variety of devices for $20 per month, the company announced today.
Sling TV, which is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2015, is designed for cord-cutters and so-called cord-nevers, according to Dish. The service streams live television from a handful of cable networks, along with video-on-demand content, via the Sling website on computers or the Sling TV app; no cable box or hardware installation is required. The app will initially be available on Android and iOS, as well as Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google's Nexus Player, some LG Smart TVs, Roku, Roku TV, some Samsung Smart TVs and Xbox One.
Dish is offering Sling TV on a month-to-month basis, with no contract. The service will include DVR functionality for pausing, rewinding and fast-forwarding "most live channels," according to Dish. A feature called 3-Day Replay will let subscribers watch "some shows" that aired within the past three days. The Verge reports that customers will only be able to watch one stream at a time, which means people won't be able to share their login information like they do with Netflix and HBO Go.
The basic Sling TV package comes with 12 channels: ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN. At launch, Sling will offer two add-on packages priced at $5 a month each: "Kids Extra" (Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV) and "News & Info Extra" (HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV). The company will add a "Sports Extra" package in the future, and says it will expand all of its offerings over time.
ESPN is key to Sling TV's appeal. The Disney-owned network is the biggest name in sports programming, and live sports is one of the main reasons people decline to cut the cable cord. Sling TV's deal for ESPN also includes access to WatchESPN, the streaming service that has traditionally been tied to a cable TV subscription. It's unclear if this would allow Xbox One users to watch ESPN programming through the console's ESPN app.
Sling TV's strategy seems to differ from that of one of its main competitors, Sony's PlayStation Vue, which boasts an array of about 75 channels from six major groups of networks. PlayStation Vue does not include ESPN, ABC or any Disney-owned channels, and it's also missing Time Warner channels such as CNN, TNT and TBS. However, PlayStation Vue does offer local broadcast channels for CBS, Fox and NBC, whereas the Sling TV package includes no local stations. Sony has yet to announce pricing for PlayStation Vue, but Sling TV's $20 monthly subscription costs much less than a traditional cable TV package.
Dish is positioning Sling TV as a service to fill out cord-cutters' television access — something in addition to Netflix and Hulu Plus, rather than a replacement for a typical cable subscription. "Our strategy was never to replicate traditional pay TV over the internet," said Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV, during a recent media presentation attended by The Verge.
The Xbox One is the first gaming console where Sling TV will be available, Microsoft announced today. Xbox Live users will be able to sign up for a free one-month trial.