Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch Talks Sling Latino, Internet TV, and Apple [Exclusive]
Last week, DISH Network's Internet TV (also known as over-the-top or OTT) service, Sling TV, launched two low-cost standalone base packages curated for Latinos, called Sling Latino.
LatinPost's Tech Editor Robert Schoon had a chance to speak with Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV and now Sling Latino, as well.
The wide-ranging conversation centered on the new Latino offering from Sling, why it was a natural fit for Sling, and what's next for the burgeoning, cutting-edge OTT industry that his company currently dominates.
The interview has been edited for length and readability.
Robert Schoon: Right now, Sling TV is the only player in the English-language Internet TV market. But now you're launching Sling Latino into a market with one incumbent (DirecTV's Yaveo) and two new players (TuYo & Pongalo) ready to roll out this summer. What makes Sling Latino a better option, and why now?
Roger Lynch: DISH launched a service called DISH World over two years ago that was focused on the international channels market here in the U.S. It didn't have Spanish content, but it did have 200 channels across 18 languages. So, going after ethnic communities in the U.S. is something we've been doing for year.
We've built a nice business on that and we've used that to transition into the Sling brand for domestic service. And now all those international channels are under the Sling International brand. So today, Sling has 200 international channels, over 20 Latino channels, and another 65 domestic channels, so it's become quite a large service across the various Sling brands.
Sling Latino was natural for us, being owned by DISH Network. DISH is a very strong Latino channel distributor -- in fact, the largest, by far, in the U.S.
It's a market that's always been very important to us, but we didn't want to launch (Sling Latino) until we really had it right on the content side. We know that Yaveo launched last December, but that didn't hit the market that we were really going after.
RS: Sling TV came out with two Latino $5 add-on packs for its "Best of Live TV" base package -- Deportes Extra and Peliculas y Novelas Extra -- just a month before you launched Sling Latino. Did you see a big response to the Latino add-ons?
RL: Yes we have -- we've been pleased with the response. Our strategy is really to go after the acculturated Latino market that is bilingual, and that's what those add-on packs are designed to do. For example, we know Latinos like sports, so there's quite a good sports offering there -- in our basic "Best of Live TV" package, which is $20 and then for $5 more you get the "Deportes Extra" package.
RS: I noticed with the Sling Latino packages, you're offering subscribers a $5 upgrade option to expand their single-stream service to three devices, which is unique to Sling Latino. Is that because you're expecting more families to sign up for Sling Latino compared to Sling TV?
RL: It's not the first time we've offered upgrades to multiple streams. With DISH World, now called Sling International, you've been able to purchase those additional streams for a little over two years. But it's new for the domestic service, and Sling Latino was really designed for Spanish-dominated households.
RS: Millennial Latinos are trendsetters when it comes to technology, and especially mobile. But many are mobile-only as well, without a home broadband connection to the Internet. Should they be worried about data caps using Sling TV, and do you see an opportunity in that to partner with wireless carriers?
RL: I think there is a natural symbiotic relationship between a service like Sling and mobile carriers, so I'd say that because of that, it wouldn't surprise me... some sort of partnering or co-marketing around services like that. But there's nothing like that we have to announce.
But I think they're natural partners, frankly, if you think about what Sling TV does -- it's why our tagline is "Free Your TV."
We know Latinos are highly mobile, and many use mobile for their primary Internet service. And Sling TV is really something we think of as a mobile-first service, in the sense that people sign up, activate their accounts, and start streaming (on mobile). And then they end up doing most of their viewing on the TV, but the mobile is a key part of the experience and so we think that will resonate with Latinos.
If someone's using mobile to stream all of their video and they have a data cap, they'll have issues. But we actually give people the ability to manage their data use. You can do it on any device, but it's probably most relevant on your mobile phone -- but if you go into the (Sling app) settings, there's a feature that lets you adjust the stream's bitrate. So I can cut my data use down significantly.
RS: I'm an aspiring cord cutter, and I've tried Sling TV and like it. But the lack of DVR is holding me back. Do you think that issue affects potential customers? Could you see adding some kind of DVR option in the future?
RL: Especially with our Latino offers, for most of our channels we have look-back functionality. For the vast majority of our Latino channels, you can go back at least to three days on any program that's been broadcast. A lot of our Sling TV domestic channels have the same feature. If I go into the Univision channel (for example), I have three days of look-back that I can view -- any program from the last three days.
We also have, increasingly, an on demand catalogue. We're only beginning to scratch the surface for how much on demand content is going to be on these Latino channels. There will be thousands and thousands of hours -- we're putting up more content everyday.
So while DVR would be a nice additional feature, it's a little bit less important, especially for our Latino audience because so much of that content is available on demand.
RS: People often ask you about if and when you're getting Sling TV's app on Apple TV. I wondered, with the recent delay in the launch of a new Apple TV with an OTT service attached, are you more or less apprehensive about Apple's entrance into the market?
RL: For any market that Apple enters, the other entrants need to be concerned, because they can be very disruptive in the market.
But when I read about what their strategy was, my first reaction was, "See you next year." This idea that they were going to launch something this summer that would include local channels all over the nation... there's not a chance. Affiliates don't even know what rights they have from the national broadcasters... there's just so much hair around local broadcast networks that I knew that wouldn't be something that happens quickly.
But frankly, what tends to happen in nascent markets like this, is when you have new entrants, it's good for the market and it's good for the competitors -- because it grows the market faster than you lose market share.
So I'm quite sure that if and when Apple enters the (OTT) market, we're going to see a huge boost in our business because of it.
We probably have virtually 100 percent market share right now, and we won't that high a market share, but we'll have many, many more subscribers -- which is really what we care about.
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