Q&A with Sling TV CEO, Roger Lynch

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Like Android TV, Sling TV is attempting to drag traditional entertainment kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Sling TV does its part by flipping the conventional cable model on its head. Instead of lumbering, expensive, closed experiences with long contracts, Sling affordably offers your favorite cable channels on the device of your choice and without a contract. It hasn’t been without its problems since its launch in February, but Sling TV has matured quite a bit before the year’s end. Recently, Android TV News got a chance to “sit down” with the CEO of Sling TV, Roger Lynch, to talk about the state of Sling TV and its future with our beloved platform.


 

Brian:  As a long time cord-cutter, Sling TV has been one of my favorite “luxury” services. However, I have found it to be an “essential” service to get my friends and family to try cutting the cord. Most find that Sling TV is all they need when it comes to cable entertainment.

Was your intended target audience users who currently have no cable subscription, or was it users looking to downsize their current cable subscription?

Roger: At this point, it’s well documented that pay-TV is a mature industry with growth being fairly flat. However, we know that the number of households in the U.S. has continued to grow, but increasingly, more consumers are deciding that pay-TV is not for them. As we dug deeper into trying to understand why, we noticed that a particular demographic, millennials, were not opting in for pay TV service anywhere near the levels of generations before them. We saw a lot of opportunity in this and have designed a service to meet their needs.

 

Brian: Android TV was not a launch partner of Sling TV but was added just 3 months later. What about Android TV made it a priority for Sling TV to include?

Roger: First and foremost, our goal is to make Sling TV available to as many people on as many devices as possible. When you look at the estimated market share that Google has amassed in Q3 2015 for its connected TV products, they are far and away the leader with 35 percent (Apple is second capturing 20 percent). While this number is reflective of consumer adoption of its Chromecast product (which Sling TV recently announced compatibility with), it’s an indicator for us of consumer comfort level with their offerings.

Android TV’s growth in the smart TV marketplace is also impressive, coming in at approximately 8-10 percent. This represents a real opportunity for us to get Sling TV in front of a substantially sized audience that likely skews toward our target demographic.

 

Brian: How much of an impact has Android TV had on Sling TV sales?

Roger: I can’t comment on specific sales figures as it relates to Android TV, but I can say that we have been pleased with what we have seen thus far. We are excited to partner with Google and will continue to push to make sure our customers can view Sling TV on any device they want.

 

Brian: What is the biggest thing you want to be changed in the next update of Android TV?

Roger: We would like to see Google search surface Sling TV content from the cloud without the app having to be installed device.

 

Brian: Do you plan on keeping the “Best of Live TV” package $20? Will any new channels be added to this package?

Roger: When we launched Sling TV’s Best of Live TV package for $20 per month, less than a year ago, we carried 12 of the most popular pay-TV channels like ESPN, HGTV, TNT and others. Today, our Best of Live TV package includes more than 20 channels and still only costs $20 per month. We have no plans to change our base package price.

That said, we continue to keep an eye out for potential channels to add to our Best of Live TV package as our goal is to deliver a service that provides exceptional value for our customers.

 

Brian: Now that the Nexus Player seems to be to the end of its life, are there any plans to offer the 50% off promotion for the other big Android TV box: Shield TV?

Roger: We have no current plans at this time.

 

Brian: One thing that I feel that could put Sling TV over the top is the inclusion of broadcast channels. Are there any plans on pulling in ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX?

Roger: At some point, we’d like to offer a broadcast tier with local channels, but it is not our strategy to put them into the base $20-per-month package. Why? We don’t want to force people to pay for channels that they can access for free via over-the-air (OTA) antennas. We’d be happy to offer local channels to customers in an optional add-on package, but to do this the broadcasters would have to be willing to play ball.

 

Brian: I understand that keeping your app consistent over multiple platforms is very important for your brand recognition and this is something standing in the way of an Apple TV app. Does your team have any plans on implementing integration of Sling TV into the “Live Channels” app on Android TV?

Roger: When it comes to helping our customers discover great content we are open to considering all options. As it relates to the “Live Channels” app on Android TV, we are looking into this. At the moment, I can’t comment any further, but stay tuned.

 

Brian: This has been a killer service and I really want to see it succeed.  Is Dish Network committed to Sling TV in the long-term?

Roger: We really want it to succeed too. A prime example of how invested we are can be seen with how the service started. While Sling TV may have launched a little less than a year ago, our commitment to it extends for several years before it. We actually debuted a service in 2012 called DishWorld that focused on delivering international programming over-the-top. Our bigger goal was to take learnings from this experience to help prepare us for the launch of Sling TV.

 


 

Afterthought:

I want to personally thank Mr. Lynch and the entire Sling TV team that helped to put this together. We are a growing community here at Android TV News, and we like being heard and supported. At the very least, I feel that this interview has shown good faith in the platform as a whole. So again, thank you, Sling TV- We are rooting for you!

Now without over analyzing and interpreting every word that Roger has said (I will let you do that), I will say that I am most intrigued by the positive reply about Live Channels. Having Sling TV show up in my Live Channels alongside my OTA channels is something I have wished for, but I always assumed that Sling TV would be adamant about keeping their interface consistent across devices. Could his answer of, “I can’t comment any further, but stay tuned” just be PR101 lip service? I suppose so, but I don’t get that impression.

One thing I do know is that Roger respects the cord cutting community, and he has definitely shown that he listens to feedback. Seeing how @RogerLynch is active on Twitter and this community has shown its ability to inspire positive change, I feel that we should let him know just how much we would appreciate #LiveChannels on #SlingTV !

Brian Stein

Brian Stein is a Science Teacher with a love of technology. When he is not molding young minds, he is looking out for the latest and greatest gadgets.Devices: Moto X, G Watch, Nexus 7, Chromebook, Custom Plex Server

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  • James A Parr

    I’m going to put my Chromecast to more use…

  • First of all. great interview.
    Second, I really hope that Sling TV implements the integration with Android TV’s Live Channels app. Google has such a hidden diamond as an app just waiting for a high profile media service provider to support it. Sling TV can be that media service and depending on how well they implement it, others will hopefully follow.

  • Dayne Putnam

    Sling need to add Live channels support and multiple streams support as they currently only support one stream. That is what has stopped everybody I know from getting sling.

    • Tinwarble

      I agree, that and still missing a couple of key channels for my purposes is the only thing that is keeping me from cutting the cable and using Sling TV.

      • Brian Stein

        I am going to attach the answers he gave in another interview just a few days ago… I didn’t want to really be redundant as these are questions he gets every time. And the answers seem to be the same every time so…

        “Isn’t your decision to be a single-stream service a little problematic from the viewpoint of families? I know that you can’t stream in two places at once on Sling TV, is there a reason for that decision?

        The single-stream nature of Sling wasn’t a decision by us. It was something that we had to do to comply with programming partner requirements. I think we’ll look at the possibility of offering more than a single stream in the future.

        But when we first launched this and were getting programming partners on board, this was very new to them. And I think they wanted to be a bit cautious about how quickly things happened. A lot has changed since we signed those deals, and they now understand really that this is a growth opportunity for them going forward.

        Even if traditional paid TV can stem the decline – like last quarter, which was a little bit better than prior quarters – it’s still in decline. And they’re seeing significant growth from businesses like ours.”

        and

        “Our generally favorable Sling TV review has become one of our most commented-on posts, with many of the commenters complaining about the streaming quality. And we’ve seen this streaming quality inconsistency discussed in other places, on message boards and forums, as well. Do you have any response to that complaint? Do you see streaming quality as a problem area for Sling TV right now?

        We know that we always have room to improve in that area.

        Streaming live TV over the internet at the scale that we’re doing it is relatively new, and it’s a completely different animal than streaming on-demand content, because you have such little margin for error. When you think about streaming a show from Netflix or something on demand, you can use all of your available bandwidth to download and buffer that program on the device that the consumer is watching on. With live, you can’t do that, because it hasn’t happened yet. You can’t download the next five minutes of programming onto your laptop or your Roku or whatever. So that reduced margin of error makes it a more challenging thing to accomplish.

        But we’re working constantly with our content delivery network partners to try to improve, especially during peak events, that performance. And we’re confident that we’re going to able to continue to improve that performance.”

        from cordcutting.com

        • Tinwarble

          Thanks for that Brian. However, the problem is that whether they want to do it or it being available some time in the future doesn’t help them now since it still doesn’t make Sling TV viable alternative to those of us that require streaming too more than one device at a time.

          Until they can make it so that it’s an option for whole home streaming it’s more of a technical curiosity than an option for cord cutting for many people.

          • Brian Stein

            I agree it is something that they need to attack and limits them for the time being..

      • Matt

        What channels specifically?

        • Tinwarble

          For me. Fox News, SyFy, FX, USA, Spike, Discovery Channel, Hallmark (mainly for the Christmas original movies), and probably a couple of others that I can’t think of right now.

          • Matt

            Ah yes, Fox News a coworker mentioned it not having. I assume if it was offered it would go to the “news” $5 dollar package.

          • Mike Rechtien

            As it should. Make the people that watch it pay for it. I’m upset that CNN is in the base package. I’d rather see a “Network “News”” tier where Fox ‘News’, MSNBC, CNN, and the lot can live on their own…

        • DrexelLake

          FOX News for sure. The most watched and trusted news in the USA for thirteen straight years. Seems like it would be a no brainer to add it.

    • Johnny Five

      That, and their service needs to not constantly buffer / crash.

      • Andrew Dodd

        Yeah. I don’t know how many times I got an error 4-500 (or was it 500-4) – telling me to contact my service provider.

        The thing is, it would pop up too rapidly when starting a Game of Thrones episode to possibly be a timeout. Also, every other streaming service I have works perfectly. Nice try Sling, blaming my service provider/network setup for a failure that does not occur with any other service but yours.

        SlingTV constantly gets the seek bar desynced from video position, constantly drops to very low quality, and frequently simply won’t play a video until I uninstall and reinstall the entire damned app.

        Once HBO Now became available for Android, I dropped Sling. It was the most awful streaming experience I have ever had.

      • DrexelLake

        Exactly.

  • Matt

    Thank you thank you about asking about Live Channels. I hope SlingTV doesn’t fuck this up. Live channels is the final step I need to cut the cord. With HDHomeRun providing over the air channels, and Cumulus TV letting me setup my own streams…. it is finally all coming together!

  • Bluegrass Ky

    I’d like to see the Viacom channels Comedy Central and Spike added to Slingtv. Also like to have FX and FXX from Fox. Im be set after that. I’d pay 5 to 10 bucks for those 4.

  • 2n3906

    My biggest need from SlingTV right now is streaming on multiple devices. If I can get at least two streams then I can get rid of my cable TV subscription.

  • DrexelLake

    I would have been asking why does it buffer, error out, and disconnect all the time.

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