Dish-owned streaming TV service Sling TV now has 2.21 million subscribers at the end of the fourth quarter, the company announced this morning. This is the first time that Dish has broken out its Sling TV subscribers separately from its larger pay TV subscriber base, and confirms earlier estimates that Sling TV had grown to north of 2 million users.
This also put Sling TV in the lead, ahead of rivals like AT&T’s one-year-old DirecTV Now, which announced 1 million subscribers back in December 2017, and has since grown to 1.2 million. It’s also leading Sony’s PlayStation Vue, as well, which reportedly had 455,000 subscribers in December, though some analysts peg it to now have 670,000 subscribers.
Sling TV is ahead of newcomers YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV, too, which have 300,000+ and 450,000 paying users, respectively, according to a recent report from CNBC.
However, Sling TV is the oldest live TV streaming service on the market, launching just ahead of PlayStation Vue in February 2015. That means it’s had more time to grow its user base as more people cut the cord with cable and satellite TV.
In addition to revealing today’s subscriber count, Dish also detailed Sling TV’s growth in its 10-K filing, reporting it had 623,000 subscribers in its first year of service, which grew to 1.5 million by 2016, and 2.212 million by year-end 2017.
Sling TV had originally benefited from being one of the first places you could stream ESPN over-the-top, and it marketed itself well to cord cutters who wanted to save money on their cable bill with its low-cost $20 per month base package. Over the years, it has expanded its service to include different tiers, Sling Orange and Sling Blue — the latter which supports multiple streams on three devices simultaneously. Last year, it also launched the AirTV Player, an Android TV-based device that comes with Sling TV.
But these days, Sling TV is one of many options for online TV.
Sling TV no longer only competes with pay TV, video-on-demand services like Netflix and other live TV rivals, like DirecTV Now. It faces competition from a host of online TV services, including those that are focused on niches like sports (e.g. fuboTV) or entertainment (e.g. Philo), as well as the over-the-top services from the networks themselves, like HBO NOW, Starz, Showtime and CBS All Access.
These services are growing, too — and becoming larger than individual streaming TV services. HBO, for example, has more than 5 million online subscribers through apps like HBO NOW or subscriptions from other streaming services. CBS also just last week announced 5 million over-the-top subscribers, ahead of its plans for new OTT offerings, an ad-supported CBS Sports app and a celeb-focused Entertainment Tonight app. Meanwhile, Disney is prepping an ESPN streaming service and a family-friendly Netflix competitor.
That will leave the streaming TV providers battling for consumers’ dollars as their audience begins to build out their own custom entertainment and sports bundles for their homes, which will likely be some mix of Netflix and other services.
Overall, however, the switch from traditional pay TV to streaming TV is impacting Dish’s business. The company reported revenue in Q4 of $3.48 billion, down from the $3.75 billion it saw in Q4 2016. However, it posted better than expected net income of $1.39 billion for the fourth quarter 2017, compared to $355 million from the year-ago quarter — something it attributed to the new tax reform legislation.
For the year, Dish reported 2017 total revenue of $14.39 billion, compared to $15.21 billion in 2016. Subscriber-related revenue in 2017 was $14.26 billion, compared to $15.03 billion in 2016.