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.
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 !