Sling TV Leaders Predict Consolidation in Live TV Streaming

In today’s earnings call with investors, Sling TV co-founder Charlie Ergen said the drop-off in linear TV isn’t just impacting his service. He said that as the battle for viewers heats up, not all streaming services will survive.

“There’s probably some fallout in the OTT market and some consolidation in that,” Ergen predicted. “And we’re profitable. Most people are not. So I think we’re well-positioned there for things that might happen. We’re smart enough not to chase customers who aren’t going to be profitable.”

In the past, Sling TV has stood its ground in carriage fights, playing a game of chicken with TEGNA and its affiliates ahead of last fall’s NFL season.

Sling TV is built specifically to cater to cost-conscious consumers while still offering a wide array of channels. While services like DIRECTV STREAM, Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV start off with a huge base tier of channels, Sling TV allows users to choose “skinnier” bundles. That splits up the packages with expensive sports channels, rather than forcing all users to pay for channels they may not want. Notably, Sling TV also doesn’t carry ABC or CBS.

Ergen’s comment doesn’t seem aimed at DIRECTV STREAM, Hulu Live TV, or YouTube TV, however. Those live streamers are owned by companies with mountains of cash. They don’t need to be profitable to benefit the parent companies’ media strategies. Likewise, it doesn’t seem aimed at Philo, which sidessteps the sports channels entirely to focus on less expensive traditional entertainment channels. Ergen is clearly throwing shade at fuboTV.

Billed as a sports-lover’s dream, fuboTV has a lot of great features and many popular channels, but the company is focused on adding sports betting products that will have a hard time competing at scale with other betting services that are readily available. Ahead of tomorrow’s earnings, fuboTV also announced a round of layoffs and a new “conservative approach to growth,” which seems to run contrary to its self-appointed “disruptor” status.

All those sports channels don’t come cheap for fuboTV, and the service is still missing some crucial channels for sports, including TBS and TNT. At the same price point as its competitors, that’s a major misfire. FuboTV also can’t rely on revenue from other parts of its business – it’s subscriptions or bust.

To be fair, Sling TV is not immune from its own share of troubles. The company fell below 2.2 million subscribers in the most recent quarter. But financial discipline is hard to come by when so much importance is placed on overall subscriber numbers. But Sling TV leaders say they’re not just looking to juice numbers for a quarter or two. CEO Erik Carlson said, “We’re focused on trying to acquire and retain customers that meet our targets for long-term and profitable growth.”

Time will tell which streaming services survive and which fall by the wayside, but Sling TV expects to be standing somewhere on the podium when the dust clears.

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