Dish unveils Sling TV video streaming service

January 5, 2015, 10:12 PM UTC

(Reuters) – Dish Network Corp (DISH) on Monday took the wraps off its long-anticipated video streaming service, named Sling TV, targeted to younger consumers who shun pricey cable and satellite subscriptions.

The $20 a month service, the first from a distributor, will be available through Internet-connected devices such as Amazon (AMZN) Fire TV, Roku and Google (GOOG) Nexus Player for TVs, tablets, computers and smartphones. It will include television programming and sports events from Walt Disney’s (DIS) ABC, ESPN and Maker Studios, Time Warner’s TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, and Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel.

Dish executive Roger Lynch, who was named CEO of Sling TV, said the service is expected to launch later this month and Dish will name more media partners.

The satellite TV provider noted that Sling TV is not the same as Sling Media, the Foster City, Calif., company known for Sling Box devices that let people watch TV across multiple screens.

Sling TV will be closely watched in the media industry as the television industry undergoes a drastic change and other players like Sony roll out competing services.

The fact that ESPN is part of the offering is considered a coup for Dish, as sport programs have long been viewed as a key component for attracting consumers who resist ditching pay TV packages.

Still, it will be a delicate balance: it does not want to encourage more people to dump its more-costly core satellite service for Sling TV.

For the third quarter, Dish said it lost about 12,000 pay-TV subscribers compared with the second quarter. It has about 14 million subscribers, making it the second-largest U.S. satellite TV company.

Dish CEO Joe Clayton said in an interview that the 18 to 35 year-old target demographic is not buying pay TV and that Sling TV will be complementary to its traditional package.

“We are not only launching a new product category but a new industry,” he said.

Dish is embarking on the new service as it battles over distribution agreements with media companies, including CBS Corp, Twenty-First Century Fox’s cable news and business networks and Turner Broadcasting.

Controlled by Charlie Ergen, Dish is known as an aggressive company. It launched a failed $25.5 billion bid for mobile phone operator Sprint and has often rolled out new technologies, frequently to the ire of its media partners.

Dish’s Auto Hop is one such example. The DVR set-top box, which automatically skips commercials, prompted litigation from CBS, Disney and Fox.