Sling TVThe OTT video landscape changed significantly this week when DISH finally unveiled their long talked about OTT offer, Sling TV. The OTT offer is targeting cord cutters and cord neverers with a new video product that is helping shape a rapidly changing video business marketplace. It’s interesting that this new twist on TV is coming from a traditional pay-TV operator like DISH, who still has much to gain from maintaining the status quo.

DISH OTT Offer
The service was introduced at this week’s CES and is set to debut later this month. The $20 per month offer includes 12 channels – ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN. The $20 package also includes access to an on-demand content library and other OTT programming, including content from Maker studios, which produces one of the most successful YouTube channels.

Additional tiers are available for $5 per month with featured content for kids, a news tier, and an additional sports tier (additional sports channels were not identified). The offer does not include local broadcast feeds from NBC, ABC, FOX, etc.

No long term contract is required, so Sling TV acts a lot like Netflix or Hulu – monthly payments of $20 gets you access to the content. The service will be featured on a variety of OTT set-top-boxes including Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, and the Xbox One. The content can also be accessed on mobile and portable devices through an app.

Some DVR features are also included. Sling TV customers will be able to pause, rewind and fast-forward most live channels, although a full functioning DVR is not included. Some channels will have a “3-Day Replay” feature, allowing customers to replay certain shows during a three day window.

Sports is the Anchor
DISH is making an interesting play here. Initially, it appears they are targeting consumers who want to cut the cord, but may be hanging on because of access to live sports. Sports programming has long been identified as a key factor in video programming buying decisions. By including ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT (and a future sports tier for an additional $5), Sling TV can entice these consumers to cut the cord now, and get what is effectively an OTT sports tier for $20 – $25 per month. (Side note – no mention of whether these ESPN rights include NFL football games. CBS recently launched an OTT offer, but it currently does not include NFL games.)

Pair that up with other OTT content from the likes of Netflix and Hulu, and you now have an interesting alternative to the traditional pay-TV channel line-up. This is somewhat counter to other OTT strategies that want to target consumers who are not interested in sports programming. The thinking there is, offer a line-up with no sports at considerably lower cost, and leave the traditional pay-TV line-up to the sports fans. DISH may be turning that approach on its head.

We’ll have to see if DISH continues to try to fill this Sling TV line-up with other channels, and create a true OTT alternative to the traditional pay-TV channel line-up. But for now, they appear to be leading with sports, paired with a slim line-up.

More to Come
DISH is the first national player out-of-of-the-gate with an OTT offer of traditional cable channels. Others will soon follow, including Sony. Recent action at the FCC may also add more options to the growing OTT video marketplace. Verizon is expected to offer a mobile TV option soon as well.

It’s all shaping up to significantly, maybe even radically, change the video marketplace and the business model supporting it. Stay tuned.