Sling TV CEO on the competitors and web TV's future
Sling TV was the massive winner at CES 2015. The web TV service, which is owned by Dish, took residence a number of awards from the present, together with dominating the information cycle all through the primary few weeks of January. And that should not come as a shock: For the primary time ever, individuals within the US had a respectable and economical various to conventional pay-tv. It was a twine-cutter’s dream. Sadly for Sling TV, gaining reputation at such a quick tempo turned out to be a double-edged sword. Within the first actual stress check for its servers, Sling TV did not cope nicely through the stream of the NCAA’s Ultimate 4 basketball event, main the corporate to apologize to subscribers.
A month later, the Recreation of Thrones season 5 premiere created one other drawback for the service, with many customers lacking out on it resulting from points with Sling TV’s Roku app. However that was then, says Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch, who I had the prospect to interview at CES 2016. As a part of our dialogue, he additionally talked about different challenges confronted since launch; the competitors from Comcast and Time Warner cable; and what is going on on with the lengthy-awaited Sling TV app for PlayStation four. (Trace: Lynch says the ball is in Sony’s courtroom.)
What is the largest problem or challenges you’ve got confronted?
Quickly after we launched, we had some challenges simply from scaling the enterprise, as a result of it grew quicker than we anticipated. We needed to retrench a bit on a few of our improvement of backup methods, simply to ensure we had rather more scalability constructed-in. However that, knock on wooden, [has] reeled in very, excellent outcomes for us.
How’s the response been from subscribers? And are you seeing any fascinating tendencies amongst customers?
What we hear from shoppers now’s principally extra issues they need from us: “Are you able to add these channels, are you able to add this gadget?” Extra options and functionalities, so it looks like we constructed a very good base of … Individuals are actually engaged with the product and now they need to assist form it. That is actually what’s behind our announcement this week, about the brand new consumer interface.
Roger Lynch talking at Sling TV’s CES 2016 press convention.
You talked about this once we met just lately, however does being associated to Dish assist when negotiating with networks to convey extra content material to your platform?
It is important. It has been important for us.
Are you able to increase on that?
Content material rights are a really, very difficult space — much more difficult than virtually anybody who’s not within the business actually would perceive or anticipate. For us, having relationships with these programming teams, lots of which we spend billions of dollars a yr with, has enabled us to form it a bit extra to one thing that we needed to create. It is all the time a compromise with the programmers — what are their aims and what are our aims? However I feel having the leverage of a somewhat giant, conventional pay-TV enterprise has enabled us to form the dialog, to return out with a aggressive product.
I feel it is protected to say you began the development of absolutely fledged twine-slicing providers, however now we have now Comcast and Time Warner Cable making an attempt to do their very own factor. How do you are feeling about that?
We have all the time anticipated competitors. However I might say what they’re doing, the cable corporations, at the very least what they’ve introduced and launched thus far, could be very totally different than us. Our shoppers are cellular, they use their cellular units. The bulk use their cellular units to observe Sling, additionally they watch it on their TV, however I feel they actually worth the mobility. Our service is not tethered to a broadband connection, it is tethered to the person — wherever they go, their content material goes with them, identical to the music.
The providers that Comcast and Constitution and Time Warner launched are all conventional within the sense that it is solely in your house, that is not what we’re making an attempt to unravel. We’re making an attempt to create a very cellular service, and one which’s fairly clear. Regardless that these corporations launched these type of streaming-like providers, they nonetheless have the identical “Nicely, this is your native broadcast feed and this is your sports activities,” whereas for us we attempt to make it very clear. It is $20, you’ll be able to add stuff if you’d like. You’ll be able to cancel anytime you need. There aren’t restrictions like “You possibly can’t be a video subscriber or you’ll be able to’t take it out of your, home.” None of that stuff.
I do know you’ve got been working exhausting to get extra content material in your platform, however one of many issues I hear probably the most is how reliability is usually worrisome, particularly throughout primetime occasions. What are you doing to alleviate this?
We have made large progress in that space. As I discussed, quickly after we launched we had some points [with] March Insanity and Recreation of Thrones, however that was March and April. Since then, we have gotten occasions that dwarfed these, just like the School Playoffs on New Yr’s Eve, so we have been capable of scale our methods very, very considerably since we had these early points. However we’re doing one thing new, what we’re doing actually hasn’t been completed earlier than, so there’s issues that we’ve got to study as we go alongside.
The present consumer interface is difficult to navigate once in a while, did you employ buyer suggestions to vary it?
We did, yeah. So the consumer interface once we launched … our most important supply was 12 channels for $20, and there was some on-demand . However since then, the variety of English channels has grown to sixty five; we have added Latino; all of the worldwide channels at the moment are over 300 channels; we have now over 50,000 hours of on-demand replay content material. And so the consumer interface needed to be advanced to have the ability to expose all of the content material that we’ve got.
We truly had began on the evolution of the consumer interface earlier than we even launched, cuz we knew this [content] was gonna be coming. After we launched, we began getting suggestions from clients about what it’s they like; what they’d wish to see extra of; what are the issues they discover arduous to find. And that basically helped affect us in how we designed the brand new consumer interface.
What was a few of the most fascinating suggestions?
We had clients who stated, “Wow, I actually like HBO on Sling, however I want that they had the on-demand content material.” We have now three,000 hours of HBO on demand — they did not realize it, cuz we did not expose it nicely sufficient to them. That was eye awakening for me.
Let’s shift gears a bit. There are a variety of PS4 house owners who’re ready for the Sling TV app. Is there something you possibly can inform us about that? Clearly, Sony has an analogous sort of service in PlayStation Vue, does which have something to do with Sling TV not being on the console?
I feel that PlayStation house owners ought to name Sony and ask them for Sling. We might be comfortable to launch on PlayStation
So do you are feeling like that is the way forward for TV?
Sure. I feel in case you quick ahead 10 or 20 years from now, it is exhausting to think about that the predominant method tv can be delivered shall be tethered to a bodily infrastructure, identical to telephony’s gone IP and Skype abstracts it from the underlying supply mechanism. The identical factor, I consider, will occur with video, however it’ll take some time.
What’s subsequent for Sling TV? What ought to we anticipate in 2016?
You will see us increase our system footprint quite a bit. We did lots final yr, including Xbox and Amazon and Android, Chromecast, and we have now excessive expectations for increasing our gadget footprint this yr, so you will see much more gadget enlargement.
This interview has been edited and condensed.