Dish’s Sling TV aims at cord cutters with new marketing blitz

Sling TV is going to start promoting its brand of cord-cutting nationwide.

The Dish Network subsidiary on Tuesday will launch a new marketing campaign featuring actor Danny Trejo to promote its streaming pay TV service. The campaign will mark the first time the company has promoted its service throughout the country, rather than just in select regional markets.

When Sling began offering its service last year, its contracts with at least of some of the cable networks reportedly put a cap on the number of subscribers it could sign. While declining to discuss those deals, Roger Lynch, Sling’s CEO, acknowledged that some programmers were cautious over concern about what the company’s service and other streaming video services might mean for the pay TV industry.

Those concerns have since gone away, he said, and programmers no longer have any “practical” limits on how quickly Sling can grow its service, he said.

“We don’t hear any concerns from programmers,” Lynch said. “Because they realize this is the future.”

While the pay TV industry as a whole has been losing customers, Sling has been adding them at an increasing rate, Lynch said. He declined to say how many subscribers Sling has or how many stick with the service for longer than a month.

Programmers are “really happy with our growth and asking us if there’s anything they can do to help us grow faster,” he said.

At the heart of Sling’s new campaign are a series of TV and print ads solely centered on Trejo. In them Trejo, best known for playing menacing criminals and murderers in movies including “Heat,” “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Machete,” speaks up for the rage and anger many consumers feel about their traditional pay TV services.

Dish launched Sling last year as one of the first multi-channel pay TV services to be offered over the Internet. Instead of using a traditional set-top box to watch shows, subscribers tune in via streaming media devices like Apple TV or one of Roku’s devices. They can also use Sling’s app or website to watch shows on their smartphones, tablets or computers.

Sling’s service was notable not only for the way Dish distributed it, but also for its price and channel options. The company’s packages start at just $20 a month, far less than most cable or satellite TV offerings, and customers can sign up for just a month at a time, rather than having to sign a long-term contract.

But Sling’s basic package only allows one video stream at a time, which would prevent a husband and wife to be watching two different programs at the same time. That package also includes just 28 channels, which is considerably fewer than consumers get with traditional pay TV offerings. Customers can add on collections of additional channels, like news stations or kids networks, for $5 each.

Sling company has been working to makes its service more attractive. When it debuted, Sling’s basic service only included a dozen channels. The company recently launched a second tier of service — dubbed Sling Blue — that includes 44 channels and allows users to stream up to three shows at a time for $25 a month.

The new marketing campaign comes as Dish and the rest of the traditional pay TV industry has been struggling. Dish has been shedding subscribers over the last two-and-a-half years. The pay TV industry overall lost subscribers in each of the last three years and has lost even more in the first half of this year.

The declines in pay TV subscribers is due to a growing number of Americans who have either chosen to cancel their pay TV subscription or have never been convinced to sign up for one. Many are choosing to watch internet-streamed video or are tuning into free broadcast video instead.

Consumers who are looking for an online alternative to pay TV can also choose from Sony’s PlayStation Vue, but it looks more like a traditional cable offering, with a greater selection of channels — and higher prices. Comcast offers an internet-delivered pay TV service called Stream TV for $15 a month, but it’s only available to the company’s broadband customers in five states, and only some of the programming can be viewed on televisions or outside the home.

Photo: Actor Danny Trejo from an advertisement for Dish’s Sling TV. (Courtesy Sling TV)


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