Sling TV confirms it will carry Vice’s new ‘Viceland’ channel

When media startup and news publication Vice launches its newly announced Viceland television network, it will be available on IP-based TV service Sling TV.
“When H2 becomes Vice[land], Sling TV will carry it. The programmer is still finalizing the exact date, but I can confirm that we’ll get Vice at the same time as other distributors,” a Sling TV spokesperson told Gigaom via email.
News of Vice’s TV network was first announced earlier this week, with Vice agreeing to take over and rebrand A&E’s “H2” channel, which currently serves as a sister station to the more well-known History channel. And while the majority of TV service providers will likely continue to carry H2 when it switches to Viceland, it isn’t necessarily a given. For example, Time Warner Cable dropped Current TV — the news and current events network cofounded by former vice president Al Gore — when it switched over to Al Jazeera America.
That said, I’m happy to hear that there won’t be any temporary blackout of H2 on Sling TV once Vice does take over — as now you’re getting a completely different station for that $20/month base price instead of repackaged History reruns. That’s not to say Viceland won’t have to strive to maintain viewership, even if it’s limiting the number of commercials and featuring content that’s more thoughtful and informative than most other cable networks. (Again, I remember when Current TV was actually good despite no one watching. And then it wasn’t, due to decisions made to boost viewership.)
In addition to Viceland, Sling TV also recently added millennial-focused Fusion to its News channel bundle and was among the first to offer brand new channels from popular multi-channel network Maker.

Sling TV arrives on Chromecast with free 2-month trial

IP-based television service Sling TV is finally making its way to Google’s Chromecast streaming device today, and it’s offering few carrots to bait those who’ve yet to sign up.
The announcement seems very much geared toward Sling TV until you hear about the perks being offered. As part of the Chromecast launch, Sling is offering new customers a two-month free trial of its basic package of over 20 channels. For (presumably) current subscribers, those that are willing to pay for three months of Sling TV upfront can also get a free Chromecast device.
The promotion is similar to one Google forged with Netflix when the Chromecast first debuted. However, this time the motivation is likely due to increased competition from the likes of Apple’s newly upgraded Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV. (Not to mention that Amazon also just yanked Chromecast from its online retail stores, both from Amazon and third-party sellers.)

AMC, IFC and Epix go live on Sling TV

Don Draper, meet Sling TV: The recently launched online TV subscription service started to carry AMC and IFC as well as the Epix family of movie channels Wednesday, which means that Sling TV subscribers can now tune in live for episodes of shows like The Walking Dead and Mad Men.

AMC and IFC are part of Sling’s $20 base package, which also includes ESPN1 and ESPN2 as well as TNT, TBS, Galavision, HGTV and a handful of other cable channels. Sling TV is also introducing a new Hollywood add-on package that includes Epix, Epix 2, Epix 3, Epix Drive-In and Sundance TV. The add-on package will cost customers an additional $5 a month, just like Sling’s existing add-ons.

The Hollywood add-on package will come with a replay feature to catch up on shows up to seven day after they aired. That’s neat, but likely won’t help to make Sling’s catch-up policy any less confusing.

Currently, the service offers three-day catch-up for channels like HGTV, Food Network, Galavision and a few others, but no catch-up at all for ESPN, Cartoon Network and TNT. But wait, there is more: “AMC and IFC will have the 3-Day-Replay feature for select content,” a Sling TV spokesperson told me, adding: “We are looking to work with AMC Networks to expand this feature moving forward.”

Inconsistent catch-up rights notwithstanding, the addition of Epix, IFC and especially AMC could help Sling to win over more would-be cord cutters looking to ditch pay TV for a cheaper alternative. Mad Men and The Walking Dead are some of those appointment TV shows that fans try to watch as soon as they air in order to avoid spoilers. Getting access to them through a $20 plan does sound pretty reasonable, considering that buying individual episodes in HD would cost consumers $12 per month for a single show.

For a first look at Sling TV, check out my previously recorded video below:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

Next up for Sling TV: A half-price Nexus Player promo

Sling TV really would like you to try its new internet-based TV service, and it’s even willing to chip in for your streaming player. The company announced a promotion featuring devices from Roku and Amazon Thursday, shipping free Roku streaming sticks or Fire TV sticks to new customers who elect to pre-pay for three months of Sling TV service. Alternatively, users could opt to get a Roku 3 or Fire TV streaming box for 50 percent off.

But that’s not all. Sling TV is also getting ready to launch a similar promotion with Google’s Nexus Player, the Android TV-based streaming device that Google unveiled last November. Sling TV customers will be able to get the Nexus Player 50 percent off as well, which brings the price down to $50. The Nexus Player promotion hasn’t been officially announced yet, but is already listed on a subsection of Sling’s website.

sling tv nexus player promo

Already teased, but not yet live: Sling TV’s Nexus Player promotion.

However, don’t get too excited just yet: The site doesn’t actually let you order the price-reduced Nexus Player just yet, for a reason. There’s one more thing that Sling TV has to do before it actually goes live with the Nexus Player promotion: Launch an Android TV-compatible app. As of now, Nexus Player support is still listed as “coming soon.”

Sling TV opens the floodgates, accepts sign-ups without invites

Sling TV, the online TV streaming service from Dish Networks, is now available to everyone: The service ended its invitation-only soft launch late Sunday night and began to accept sign-ups from everyone on its website.

Sling offers consumers live access to a total of 15 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, HGTV, Cartoon Network and others for $20 a month. New to this basic package are Galavision, El Rey Network and a channel for Maker Studios content, which had been previously announced but initially wasn’t part of the invite-only beta test. AMC is going to be added to the base package soon, according to a Sling TV press release. There’s no word yet on whether Sling will also add other channels that are part of the AMC Networks family, including IFC, Sundance TV and WE TV.

Sling subscribers can elect to add more channels through three different add-on packages that cost $5 each. These include a news and information package, a kids and family package and a sports add-on package that offers access to additional ESPN channels and a few other sports networks. As of Monday, subscribers will also be able to use ESPN’s WatchESPN apps, but the content available to them will depend on their individual subscription: Sling TV’s base package unlocks ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3 streams, whereas the added sports package will provide access to more content.

Sling TV is catering to cord cutters and what the company calls “cord haters,” meaning people who would love to get rid of cable but haven’t been able to in the past, primarily because of sports. Sling wants to win over this audience by offering them a lower-priced package without some of the strings that are usually attached with a traditional pay TV service. For example, Sling TV customers will be able to cancel any time, and don’t need commit to year-long contracts.

However, Sling TV couldn’t completely do away with the limitations of its industry. Some of the most advanced features of the service, which include the ability to rewind and fast forward in a current show or go back to any show that has aired within the last 72 hours, aren’t available on most networks due to contractual restrictions. In addition, Sling TV is only available on one single device at a time.

Check this video for a first look at Sling TV:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

This post was updated at 9:33am with information about AMC coming to Sling TV.

Sling TV reveals plans for sports package including Universal Sports

Sling TV, the internet-based TV service operated by Dish, just gave us a look at its plans for sports fans: Sling TV’s new website, which launched Friday, reveals the line-up of channels that will be available as part of a Sports Extra add-on package.

Sports fans who pay a little extra on top of their $20 base subscription for Sling TV will have access to the SEC Network, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, Univision Deportes, Universal Sports and beIN Sports, according to the site.

It was widely expected that the sports package would include a number of additional ESPN channels. Sling’s base package only gives users access to ESPN1 and ESNP2, and executives had long said that they were going to include more ESPN fare with an add-on package. The SEC Network is also owned by Disney and part of the ESPN family, and Univision Desportes isn’t a big surprise either — Sling announced a deal with Univision earlier this week, and also has plans to build a package that specifically targets Spanish speakers.

beIN Sports is a new addition, and so is Universal Sports, which is in part owned by NBC Universal. Universal Sports struck a multi-platform deal with Dish in 2012, but it’s unclear whether Sling TV was already part of that deal, or whether both parties have now reached a separate agreement. A Sling TV spokesperson contacted for this story confirmed the lineup for the sports package, but declined to comment further.

NBC Universal has long been seen as one of the easier gets for new online TV services like Sling TV, because the network is subject to merger conditions put in place when Comcast acquired NBC in 2011. Part of these conditions was a requirement to offer online rights under the same conditions as any of its competitors. However, a NBC Universal spokesperson told me that the broadcaster doesn’t currently have a deal with Sling TV, and that Universal Sports is part of a separately run corporate entity.

The sports package is still listed as “coming soon.” It will cost $5 a month, which is what Sling is charging subscribers for access to its news as well as kids’ add-on packages. Sling TV is still in an invitation-only beta phase, but is expected to open up to the public within the next few weeks.

Take a closer look at Sling TV in the video below:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

Correction: This post was updated at 1:42pm. A previous version stated that the addition of Universal Sports could signal a wider deal with NBC Universal, but a spokesperson of the broadcaster has since insisted that this isn’t the case.

Sling TV strikes deal with Univision for its online TV service

Online TV streaming service Sling TV is about to get bilingual: Sling TV has struck an agreement with Univision to carry its Spanish-language broadcast and cable networks, both companies announced Monday. The deal could help Sling, which is currently in an invite-only beta test, with an audience that is most likely to cut the cord.

Under the agreement, Sling will be able to carry Univision, UniMás, Univision Deportes, Galavisión, El Rey Network, Bandamax, De Película, De Película Clásico, Telehit, Tlnovelas and FOROtv.

There’s no word yet on how Sling, which is owned and operated by Dish, is going to integrate the networks into its service. The company introduced a $20 base plan with 12 networks, including ESPN and TNT, at CES last month. In addition, it is offering a $5 kids and family bundle and a $5 news and information bundle as add-on packages. Company executives said at CES that they will launch a sports add-on package as well, and Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch actually hinted at a Spanish-language plan as well.

It’s possible that Sling could build a completely separate base package for Spanish-language viewers, or offer some of Univision’s content as an add-on package. It’s also likely that it will offer Univision Desportes as part of its sports package. I asked a Sling TV spokesperson for details, but have yet to hear back.

Regardless, adding Univision is a smart move for Sling TV. Latinos are a growing and very tech-savvy audience that is more likely to stream video online than other parts of the U.S. population. In addition, Univision viewers are extremely loyal to the network, with an executive telling the Wall Street Journal last fall that 76 percent of its viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 only watch Univision and no other network. Those viewers are least likely to pay $100 a month for an expensive, over-sized cable bundle, which is why Sling TV could succeed with a more targeted and much more affordable plan.

Here’s a first look at Sling TV:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

Cord Cutters: A first look at Sling TV

Dish is starting to invite some first users to its new Sling TV online streaming service this week. Here’s how the service looks like on a Roku 3.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

Show notes for this episode:

  • Sling TV’s base package is going to cost $20, for which you’ll get access to live feeds from ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN. Additional kids and news packages will cost $5 each.
  • Check out all you need to know about Sling TV.
  • Sling TV is currently in an invite-only phase. You can apply for an invite on Sling’s website.
  • Sling TV is expected to go live for everyone within the next two weeks.

Will you subscribe to Sling TV, or is something crucial missing from the service? Let us know in the comments below!

All you need to know about Dish’s new Sling TV service

Dish’s Sling TV online streaming service, which the company plans to launch in the coming weeks, made waves at CES earlier this month, but a few questions were left unanswered. Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch took to Reddit this week to answer some of them in the form of an AMA-style crowdsourced interview.

Here are some of the highlights of the AMA, as well as other previously announced details that potential Sling TV customers may be interested in:

  • Base package content: For $20, Sling TV will get you access to live feeds from ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN.
  • Kids’ package content: An optional $5 kids’ package gets you access to live feeds from Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV.
  • News package content: Sling TV’s optional $5 news and information package includes access to live feeds from HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV.
  • Sports package content: There will eventually be a sports add-on package as well, but details are still scarce. Said Lynch: “We’re not ready to announce specific channels for the ‘Sports Extra’ add-on pack, but you can expect to see more great channels from ESPN, as well as other popular sports networks.”
  • WatchESPN: Access to WatchESPN is included, said Lynch. But the devil is in the details: Sling TV base package subscribers only have access to ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3 via WatchESPN, according to an ESPN spokesperson.
  • Number of devices: “You can have Sling TV on as many devices as you want, however at launch, Sling TV will be a single-stream service,” said Lynch.
  • Resolution and bandwidth: Sling TV will be available in 720p and 1080p, and users will be able to tweak their streaming settings: “Through settings, we give you tools to limit the bandwidth for your streaming if you’re worried about your data cap,” Lynch said.
  • Speaking of bandwidth caps: Sling TV’s CEO seems to be aware of last-mile issues, especially since he’s competing with ISPs and their TV services. “We do have concerns about net-neutrality and the effect the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger could have on the broadband market,” he said.
  • Surround sound: Sling TV supports Dolby surround sound where available. “We support DD 5.1 and it will be available on most channels and most VOD content,” Lynch told Reddit readers.
  • 4K: Won’t be available at launch, in part because TV networks aren’t quite ready. “No live channels are offering 4K content yet,” he said.
  • Device availability: Sling TV will be available on Android TV, Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, iOS, Android and desktops. The iOS app will support Airplay. There won’t be any Chromecast support at launch, but it’s coming: Lynch said, “We plan to launch on many more devices throughout the year, and Chromecast is on our list!” He was notably less enthusiastic about bringing Sling TV to the Playstation, saying: “Not at launch but we’re always open to new device partnerships.” That might be because Sony is about to launch its own TV service on the Playstation.
  • How to get access: Sling TV will officially launch in the coming weeks, but Lynch shared a trick for everyone who wants first dibs: “Just go to Sling.com to get your invite. We’re rolling these out later this month before the general public.”

Dish’s new Sling TV service liberates ESPN from the cable bundle

There are two ways to look at Sling TV, the new internet-based TV service that will be announced by Dish on Monday at CES: It’s either a poor replacement of what cable has to offer, lacking even basic programming. Or it’s finally a way for cord cutters who don’t want to give up on sports to get ESPN live streaming, plus a few extra stations, for just $20 a month.

Dish President and CEO Joseph Clayton announced Sling TV at CES Monday.

Dish President and CEO Joseph Clayton announced Sling TV at CES Monday.

[company]Dish[/company] revealed not only the service’s name but also key details on programming and price: The base package, which will cost consumers $20 a month, includes live access to ESPN and ESPN2, as well as a couple of other cable networks, including Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. Consumers will also be able to add additional packages, including for news programming, family content and sports, for five dollars each. Sling TV will launch before the end of January, and is already in private beta test with select customers.

Sling Guide

Sling TV will be available over the internet, and consumers will be able to watch the service on the web as well as via Roku, Fire TV, Android TV and Xbox One as well as iOS and Android. Chromecast and Apple TV are notably absent from the list, but Sling TV executives told me during a recent interview that they plan to add additional devices in the near future. Most, but not all channels offer DVR-like pause, rewind and fast forward features. And consumers will be able to access some shows up to three days after they air — but there are once again limits dictated by the contracts that Dish has with TV networks.

Sling TV: Not like any other TV service

Dish is not the only company looking to launch an internet-based TV service. Intel tried the same thing with its OnCue service, but eventually gave up on the idea and sold OnCue’s assets to Verizon. Sony announced its own internet-based TV service at CES in Las Vegas a year ago, and began limited tests of the service late last year. But Sony’s approach is very different from Dish’s: The PlayStation maker has been busy signing deals for big bundles, like the one with Viacom that will bring a total of 22 channels to Sony’s TV service, including not only popular networks like Comedy Central but also little-watched properties like VH1 Soul and Palladia.

“That type of deal that Sony signed with them is not a deal that we would do,” said Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch during a recent interview. He added that Comedy Central content is already “widely distributed,” with consumers being able to watch shows like the Daily Show on the show’s website or on Hulu.

[pullquote person=”Roger Lynch” attribution=”Roger Lynch, CEO, Sling TV” id=”903979″]“ESPN is an anchor.”[/pullquote]

Lynch maintained that the same is true for broadcast networks like Fox or CBS, which Sling TV doesn’t carry. Consumers can access their feeds with an antenna, or catch up on shows on Hulu or elsewhere, he argued, adding: “The fact is that they are already watching it.” Lynch said that Sling TV may add a broadcast tier “over time,” offering consumers to stream content from broadcaster for an extra fee. “We don’t want to force everyone to buy them,” he said.

Sling TV bills itself as complementary to Netflix and Hulu.

Sling TV bills itself as complementary to Netflix and Hulu.

Instead, Sling TV is betting that all of its customers want access to ESPN, which is the service’s crown jewel at launch. Or, as Lynch put it: “ESPN is an anchor.”

That’s an interesting bet, because it could actually work: Sports has been the deal-breaker for many would-be cord cutters, who just hold on to their $100-a-month cable bill because they don’t want to miss their team’s games. With Sling TV, they may now get what they want for just 20 bucks a month. Plus, the basic tier also comes with access to some content from WatchESPN, the sportscaster’s online video service. Specifically, Sling TV subscribers will have access to the ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3 through the WatchESPN  app.

DishWorld will be folded into Sling TV

The move towards new online distribution models doesn’t come out of the blue for Dish. The company acquired online video platform provider Move Networks five years ago, and used the Move team to build out its own online team. That team actually launched a first online TV service in early 2013: DishWorld provides expats in the U.S. with access to live TV networks from countries like India, Brazil or Vietnam.

Sling TV may sound a little bit like Sling Media, maker of the Slingbox, but the two companies don't really have anything in common - except the same corporate parent.

Sling TV may sound a little bit like Sling Media, maker of the Slingbox, but the two companies don’t really have anything in common – except the same corporate parent.

Lynch told me that it’s been a success for the company, helping to grow the audience for international channels, which were previously only available as part of Dish’s service, threefold. He didn’t reveal any subscriber numbers, but said that consumers who do pay for international TV stations through Dishworld watch over five hours of programming via the service every day on average.

Dishworld is currently run by a team of 250 people, and Lynch said that the company plans to staff up in the coming months. “It’s in a way our big beta,” he said. It’s worth noting that this beta test is now over: DishWorld is going to be folded into Sling TV and rebranded as Sling International.

Is Dish suddenly a cord cutter’s best friend?

So will Sling TV eat into Dish’s traditional subscriber base? Lynch and the service’s Chief Marketing Officer Glenn Eisen insisted that won’t be the case, with Eisen telling me Sling TV is a separate business unit with the company that goes after a different set of customers. The service targets people who already have cut the cord, and what he called cord-haters: “Psychologically, they have already cut the cord.”

Household numbers are growing, while pay TV subscriptions are on the decline. Dish views this as an opportunity for Sling TV.

Household numbers are growing, while pay TV subscriptions are on the decline. Dish views this as an opportunity for Sling TV.

That’s nice rhetoric, but it doesn’t hide the fact that Dish is in the long run just as vulnerable as cable. The TV industry has seen a small but notable decline of subscribers in recent quarters, but online viewing has grown rapidly at the same time, suggesting that there may be more radical changes of consumption patterns ahead. Quizzed about this, Eisen and Lynch told me that Dish was cognizant of these shifts, but also optimistic that the industry could return to growth by embracing new models. Said Eisen: “If we care about growing the market, then we had to pivot.”

This post was updated throughout at 12:30pm with additional details shared during Dish’s CES press conference. It was updated again at 2:31pm and 4:28pm to clarify how much WatchESPN is part of Sling TV.

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