In 2015, DISH Media took the stage at CES to debut its Sling TV service, a virtual multichannel video programming distributor (or vMVPD) that would provide access to hundreds of shows on-demand; all that was required was an internet connection. Years before this announcement, DISH began extensive conversations with programmers about how best to deliver an OTT service. They envisioned a personalized, a la carte, live TV experience accessible across devices, offering unparalleled choice and control. The result was the first live, multi-channel streaming service.
Four years later, Sling TV remains the leading live TV streaming service with nearly 700 channels in 24 languages, and a robust subscriber base that continues to grow each month. We recently sat down with Kevin Arrix, senior vice president at DISH Media, to discuss this success story. A condensed excerpt follows (with the full video interview embedded below):
SpotX: What’s the evolution of Sling TV been like over the last four years?
KA: Before Sling was even born, DISH saw a need to offer audiences the ability to customize their viewing experience. Since the launch in 2015, Sling has grown tremendously; we started with just 14 channels and now have nearly 700.
Sling also continues to unlock value that wasn’t feasible with traditional pay TV, including digital capabilities such as dynamic ad insertion (DAI). DAI is now available on over 90 linear channels, and has been a huge factor in our 3x revenue growth from 2018-2019, as well as the 5x boom in our programmatic business from 2017 to 2018.
DISH Media has led the addressable linear ad space since 2012, and we’re starting to see a noticeable uptick in real-time, custom audience targeting thanks to strategic partnerships with SpotX and leading DSPs.
SpotX: What’s been the driving factors in this exponential growth?
KA: We have a strong, established sales team in the market for both DISH and Sling TV, which allows us to cover both traditional and digital clients. As these worlds continue to converge, SpotX allows us to go deeper in the marketplace and leverage their added expertise. With such rapid changes across the industry, there is a constant need for greater education and the guidance offered by their Demand Facilitation team.
Another thing that has contributed to our growth and success is understanding our audiences and partners. We make sure that the demand side knows that a partnership with Sling TV means crucial incremental reach access to cord-cutters and cord-nevers. We’re also one of the few players out there that takes an agnostic approach to IO vs. Programmatic. It doesn’t matter how folks want to buy with us—our IO offering is equal to our programmatic offering.
SpotX: What’s coming down the pipeline? What excites you most about the future of media sales at Sling?
KA: In 2019, we introduced a free Sling experience, which allows anyone with a Roku device to watch ad-supported content in front of the paywall. This allows customers to experience the Sling product and over 1,000 high-value programming assets for free. We look forward to seeing how this idea evolves and how we can curate the best possible ad experience for these users as well.
Another thing we’re excited about is new ad innovation, and the growth of programmatic addressable through partners like SpotX. The growth of digital and DAI will lead to more 1:1 targeted and personalized ads. Basically, we’re always listening to our customers, because they tell us what’s next.