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This Should Be Sling TV’s 2019 New Year’s Resolution

It’s was a big 2018 for Live TV Streaming Services. We’ve seen them add hundreds of local channels, expand their DVRs, add new channels, stream in 4K and unfortunately, in some cases raise prices.

To start the New Year, we will be taking a look back at each of the 7 Live TV Streaming Service’s past year, and what their 2019 New Year’s resolution should be. Last week, we shared our New Year’s Resolutions for Hulu Live TV and PlayStation Vue, and today we’ll share ours for Sling TV.

Sling’s 2018 may have been a peek into the future. While other companies tried to play catch up to Sling’s nearly 2.4MM subscribers — Sling’s focus was to turn their product into a more profitable one.

They raised the price of Sling Orange to $25, stopped adding expensive local channels, and added the ability for subscribers and non-subscribers to access ad-supported content, OTT subscriptions, and PPV events.

Sling TV Year-In-Review

In the first half of 2018 was quiet for Sling. The biggest news out of the Sling was their launch in Puerto Rico. That’s because company was laying the groundwork for the rest of the year — turning the Sling TV app from a subscription service into a platform.

Turning Sling into a Platform

The company looked for other ways to start generating revenue, besides just Sling Orange and Blue. Similar to Amazon Channels, Sling started offering premium OTT subscriptions that could be subscribed to directly from the Sling interface — even without a Sling subscription.

They added services like Showtime, REVOLT, CONtv, Docurama, Comedy Dynamics, and DOGTV, as well as the ability to buy PPV events like popular UFC fights and boxing matches.

The company also launched their version of The Roku Channel with free ad-supported on-demand shows with 100 hours of free TV shows and movies including Good Behavior and Flip or Flop.

Removing Expensive Locals

In May, Sling Group President Warren Schlichting hinted that Sling’s low prices were not sustainable with local channels. Retransmission fees — or the amount that cable and streaming providers pay for local affiliates — had increased from $215 million in 2006 to almost $11 billion in 2017. Sling estimated that locals added about $12-15 to the cost of the bundle.

The company changed the narrative to encourage consumers to get their locals via an OTA Antenna or free non-profit local streaming services like Locust. In 2017, Dish unveiled the AirTV Player — an Android TV streaming player that integrates locals from your antenna in the Sling interface.

In 2018, Sling started more actively promoting the device and discounted it heavily for new Sling subscribers ($50 with 3 months of Sling). They’ve added features to the device like the ability to record locals to your DVR (via external storage) and dual-tuner functionality.

In June, Sling TV lost Univision, UniMás, and El Rey in a price dispute and removed their Broadcast Extra bundle which also included ABC. Since then, the company has halted adding new CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC affiliates to the service.

Sling Orange Price Increase

In July, the company raised the price of Sling Orange by $5 a month. It was the first price increase since it launched in 2015 with only 15 channels (with over 30 today). Other packages like Sling Blue ($25), Sling Orange + Blue ($40), and 4 Extra Bundle ($10) did not see any price changes.

Gaining and Losing Channels

While the company added channels like Cheddar and The Tennis Channel, the biggest news came when they announced that nine Discovery networks had joined the service.

Sling Orange customers would get Investigation Discovery and MotorTrend Network, while Sling Blue customers would get Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery, and TLC. American Heroes Channel, Destination America, Science Channel became available as part of Extra packs.

In November, Sling subscribers lost the ability to subscribe to HBO and Cinemax. AT&T in a broader dispute with parent company Dish pulled HBO and Cinemax. Since AT&T also owns DIRECTV NOW and expects to launch a WarnerMedia streaming service around HBO content next year — this felt like a particular attack against Sling.

Sling TV’s 2019 New Year’s Resolution

While 2018 seemed to be about building Sling into a better business, our resolution for Sling TV is to focus on improving their streaming product. Two of the biggest complaints of Sling’s service is their streaming quality and long lag behind cable.

Video Quality

The video quality just looks worse than other streaming services. The service is stable and often doesn’t buffer — but often it looks more like a stream than watching traditional TV.

Part of this is that they’ve been the slowest to roll out 60 FPS support across channels and devices, which make fast action seem blurry. Sling only supports it on 28 channels — mostly movies and sports — like Showtime, ESPN and FS1. Most other services at this point though has rolled out 60 FPS support across nearly every channel.

Stream Delay

But for the sake of sports fans, that’s not our only resolution. Sling also has the longest delay from live TV — almost 60 seconds behind cable, nearly twice that of other streaming services. This means you’re more likely to have a major game events get spoiled by a text, loud neighbor, or Twitter.

Even the service with the shortest lag (fuboTV) still has a ~15 second delay, but we we hope in 2019 they can get the delay in line with their peers (~25-30 seconds).

Sling was the first and is still the biggest vMVPD on the market. The company has 2.37 million subscribers, but growth has slowed. They’ve been able to remain the lone true skinny bundle that includes live sports, which is a key differentiator in the industry.

But, with other services like AT&T TV NOW (1.8MM) and Hulu Live TV (1MM) playing catch-up — Sling can’t just rest of what they’ve built. We’ve already seen positive signs for 2019 with their new Apple TV app launched this week. We hope for Sling that 2019 is a year of improving their product — starting with higher-quality streaming.

Want to Learn More About Live TV Streaming Services?

  • You can read our comprehensive Sling TV review which highlights channels, features, performance, and supported devices, and more.
  • You can read comparison of 7 different cord-cutting services including DIRECTV NOW, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, Philo, Sling TV, and YouTube TV.
  • If you need a recommendation, use Channel Finder to add your favorite channels, shows, and sports teams and we’ll tell you the best service for you.
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