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Sling TV’s President Talks “Tension” Between Live TV Streaming Services and Programmers Moving Content DTC

Michael King

Michael Schwimmer, Group President of Sling TV, says that traditional pay-TV consumers have started to drop off because they have become disillusioned with the traditional products. Schwimmer was one of Tuesday’s keynote speakers at the annual Stream TV Show.

Sling understands that in the streaming space, as opposed to the traditional cable-satellite space, customers come in and leave as opposed to necessarily staying for long periods of time.

“If the customer wants to come and watch the game and leave — we love that customer,” Schwimmer said. “So let’s say somebody comes in with us for three months, then they leave for three months and then they come back, you know, our view is every time that customer leaves is not necessarily a bad thing. We know that customer will be back.”

There is a natural decline of traditional pay television viewers on an ongoing basis, but it’s not because people are less hungry for news and sports, he said. More than 80 million homes in the United States have some form of pay television, but while this is the case, the number of homes that are “cutting the cord,” so-to-speak, continues to grow.

“No one is saying, ‘Hey, I don’t want to watch the NBA Playoffs’, or ‘I’m not interested in 24-hour news anymore,’” Schwimmer said. “There’s an enormous amount of viewership, that still goes on.”

The difference, Schwimmer said, is that there will be complementary products in the pay television space in the long run. Referring to recently announced plans for a streaming CNN service — CNN Plus — he compared it to the currently running Fox News premium streaming platform.

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“Fox has had Fox Nation for a couple of years now, and Fox News ratings are off the charts,” Schwimmer said. “So the linear product is not going to be substituted in the near term by those direct-to-consumer players. Now that being said, obviously, there’s tension between programmers and streamers like us.”

As a case in point, he said, while NBCUniversal’s networks will have the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo next month, a lot of the content will be streamed on Peacock, which will provide tension between distributors offering NBC’s linear channels.

“There’s still a ton of money being made by programmers and you know it’s the proverbial golden goose so you know I don’t think the programmers are interested in killing it,” he said.

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