Sling TV ads get tough on 'bad cable' as it reaches for broader subscriber base

By Jim O'Neill on Aug 30 2016 at 10:15 AM
Sling TV ads get tough on bad cable as it reaches for broader subscriber base

It wasn’t long ago (January of 2015, actually) that Sling TV was cautiously edging out onto the national stage, demurely insisting it wasn’t advocating cord cutting, just offering an alternative that might attract cord nevers and others disgruntled with the pay-TV economy. In other words, Millennials.

When Dish announced its “Millennial Catcher” at CES in 2015, I called it a “stake in the ground,” an incomplete, but promising alternative Internet TV offering that would set a course for others to follow.

It turned into a zombie for many viewers during the debut of Fear the Walking Dead, double dribbled during its early telecasts of March Madness games, and has intermittent problems along the way.

Since then it’s been solid. Sling TV saw a 1140% increase in viewing during the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game, has added content and now is offering a second service with different content to attract a more diverse subscriber base.

How things have changed.

Sling TV now has nearly 750,000 subscribers and today is launching a multimedia marketing campaign, “Who’s Bad?!,” across television, digital, mobile, social, print and new media platforms. It hopes to position Sling TV as the solution to traditional pay-TV pain points, including high costs, long-term contracts, rental equipment fees, annual price hikes, useless channels and poor customer service.

“Consumers are growing unhappy with the traditional pay-TV model and are increasingly leaving the pay-TV industry,” said Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV. “The choice shouldn’t be ‘should I stay or should I go,’ which is why Sling TV’s programming portfolio and flexible model continues to offer more and more pay-TV customers an attractive option for their entertainment needs.”

The ad campaign features Danny Trejo – the gritty character actor that made a name for himself play a bad guy in titles like Breaking Bad, Machete and Machete Kills – and aims to personify pay-TV subscribers’ “frustration… with the traditional pay-TV model,” said Glenn Eisen, chief marketing officer of Sling TV.

As with its previous advertising push, “Take Back TV,” Eisen says Millennials really are the target of its new campaign.

But, it’s obvious that a bigger game is afoot... and bigger stakes.

The market has gotten considerably more crowded since Sling TV debuted. PlayStation Vue has dropped its subscription fee substantially and has gone nationwide with more channels. Hulu has plans to roll out an SVOD service that includes live linear feeds from broadcasters, something both Sling TV and Vue are struggling with.

Even the “bad guys” at cable are stepping up their games.

Last week I began trialing a streaming service from Charter Communications – now the No. 2 cable provider in the country after acquiring Brighthouse Networks and Time Warner Cable – called Spectrum TV Stream Plus. The service quietly launched in parts of the country last fall and slowly has been making its way into other markets. It includes live linear from the Big 4 broadcasters, 16 cable networks including A&E, AMC, TBS and Discovery, and a choice of Showtime or HBO. All for $20 (a $13 option gives you just ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox).

Charter throws in a Roku 3 to boot. There are no contracts and installation required. Just an Internet connection from Charter (and have been without Charter TV for 30 days).

Even with no pause, rewind, fast forward or PVR capability, Stream Plus is still an interesting add to the market… call it Charter’s first stake in the ground.

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn

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