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CES Report: Dish Announces $20/Month OTT Service for Cord-Cutters

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Dish's long-awaited OTT service is almost here, the company announced today at International CES 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Called Sling Television, the service is aimed at young cord-cutters. It will include both live and on-demand content, with 13 channels in the base package at launch, and will be commercially available later this month.

Sling TV includes content from ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel. Subscribers will also get a selection of content from Maker Studios. The service will be available without a contract or credit check. It should work with iOS and Android devices, Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Sticks, some Samsung and LG Smart TVs, Xbox One consoles, and Windows and Mac computers.

To tailor their content, subscribers can choose add-on packs for an extra $5 per month. Add-ons include Kids Extra and News and Info Extra. A Sports Extra option is coming, but won't be available at launch. Some programming will be available for replay within three days, but that will be determined by the broadcasters. Missing from the service are local channels and a cloud DVR feature, both of which would help the service feel more like a cable replacement. Also notable is that the service can only stream to one device per account at a time. This is more a personal subscription than a household subscription.

While the service isn't a surprise, the decision to use the Sling name is. The service doesn't require a Slingbox player, but Slingbox and Dish are both in the same EchoStar corporate family. Dish already includes Slingbox technology in its Hopper DVRs. (Sling announced that the online features it previously called SlingTV will be rebranded as Slingbox 500). When asked about the name choice, a Dish representative said the company was able to get the name for no cost, since Slingbox is under the same corporate umbrella, and Dish didn't think that the Sling TV service's target customers would be familiar with the Slingbox player, so there would be no confusion. 

Getting into the streaming bundle market has challenges said Dish president and CEO Joe Clayton, such as streaming and dynamic ad insertion, but he believes Dish has a first-mover advantage. He pointed out that the DishWorld service has been streaming international content for 18 month already, letting the company figure out the technology. DishWorld will soon be rebranded as Sling International. A Spanish-language service is in the works.

Will Sling TV cannibalize the pay TV market? Clayton doesn't think so. The industry isn't reaching many millennials anyway, he said. Affordability is the key attribute here, he added, and Dish TV offers a small, focused lineup.

Sling also announced it's getting on the 4K bandwagon with the addition of a 4K Joey, the name of its compact DVR product. Customers with a Hopper and a 4K TV will be able to add a 4K Joey to stream 60fps 4K video. The 4K Joey offers an interesting side-by-side feature. Aimed at sports viewers, it lets them watch two programs side-by-side at once, with both in high definition.

Dish also announced a voice-controlled remote control, the addition of a Vevo music channel, and a no-cost music streaming service that sounds a lot like Sonos. The music channel will let customers use their remote or a smartphone app to stream music through their Hopper to the attached speakers, and stream different music to different rooms. The service will work with a variety of existing music streamers.

Joe Clayton beats the drum for Sling Television.

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