Dish’s Sling TV Adds Fox, Excludes Disney in New Offering

  • Subscribers can access multiple streams, Simpsons library
  • Disney channels like ABC and ESPN aren't part of new offering

Dish Network Corp. has unveiled a new version of its online Sling TV service that includes 21st Century Fox Inc. channels but leaves out Walt Disney Co. networks like ESPN and ABC.

The offering marks the latest move in the pay-TV industry’s game of musical chairs, as programmers jockey for position in slimmer packages that don’t include everything.

The new Sling TV costs $20 per month and features the FX cable channel, Fox’s broadcast stations in 17 markets, and Fox’s regional sports networks, including the YES Network, according to a statement Wednesday. The YES Network is currently unavailable to New York Yankees fans in Comcast Corp.’s markets because of a distribution fight.

The version also lets subscribers watch the entire library of “Simpsons” episodes and popular shows like Fox’s “Empire” on demand. It doesn’t include Fox News, which negotiates its distribution separately. And unlike the first version of Sling TV, the new one gives multiple people the ability to stream the service at the same time.

“We are having to limit channels; it’s the most difficult part of our negotiations,” Sling TV Chief Executive Officer Roger Lynch said in an interview. “All the programmers want all their networks in the basic package. But that’s not what we are aiming for. We don’t want to replicate the big pay-TV bundle. We want to do something more a la cart-like.”

Dish’s “skinny bundle” is one of several online-TV offerings in the market. Media executives say Inc. is exploring selling smaller packages of TV networks over the Internet. Verizon Communications Inc. sells discounted, slimmed-down packages and AT&T Inc. plans to introduce three Web-based TV bundles by year-end.

“As media consumption patterns continue to evolve in today’s multi-channel, multi-platform universe, we believe our core brands are more relevant than ever, and we welcome the introduction of a new TV service that reflects this vision,” Peter Rice, CEO of Fox Networks Group, wrote Wednesday in an e-mail to staff.

Consumers can still subscribe to the previous version of Sling TV, which costs the same and includes many of the same channels, including AMC Networks Inc. and Time Warner Inc.’s CNN, TNT and TBS.

The new Sling TV, however, doesn’t include Disney channels such as ESPN, which are still carried on the previous version. Neither version carries networks belonging to CBS Corp. and Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

Amy Phillips, a spokeswoman for ESPN, said the network is in active discussions with Dish about its new multi-stream Sling service but hasn’t yet reached an agreement.

Lynch, in the statement, said Sling subscribers had been asking for more channels and the ability to watch on multiple devices simultaneously.

Shares of Dish rose 2.1 percent to $44.65 at 3:09 p.m. in New York. The stock had fallen 24 percent this year through Tuesday’s close. Fox gained 1.7 percent, while Disney rose 2.2 percent.

‘Pleased’ With Growth

Englewood, Colorado-based Dish introduced Sling TV in early 2015, touting it as a more affordable option for millennials who may not subscribe to a cable or satellite service. The service now has more than 600,000 subscribers, according to analysts, though Lynch declined to provide an official number.

“We have been very pleased with our subscriber growth,” he said.

When Disney agreed to put ESPN on Sling TV in 2014, it demanded terms that would let it pull out if the online service grew too quickly or if too many regular cable customers dropped the popular sports network, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

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