Amid TV antenna discounts, Sling TV blames programmers for sidestepping ‘A La Carte TV’

Sling TV is offering a steep discount on the AirTV Player for customers who prepay for three months of service.

Dish Network’s Sling TV offered a steep discount on a TV antenna that integrates with its service, and took the wraps off a refreshed website. But the company also took aim at the licensing terms offered by programmers as it sought to promote the idea of “A La Carte TV.”

“Every consumer would love to just pay $20 and then choose the twenty channels they want,” Sling TV chief Roger Lynch wrote on the company’s website today. “And we would love that too. We would do that in a heartbeat if programmers would let us…but they won’t. So we have fought long and hard to create consumer choice. And we’ve delivered it in a way no pay-TV service has ever been able to do before. With Sling TV, it’s easy and affordable to customize your personal channel lineup.”

In his post to the company’s site, Lynch touted Sling TV’s approach to the live TV streaming market—acknowledging both Sling’s early entrance into the space as well as the growing number of companies entering the market, such as Google’s YouTube, AT&T’s DirecTV Now and soon, Hulu. “Today, four out of five pay-TV subscribers want A La Carte TV,” Lynch wrote. “Sling TV is the only pay-TV service that allows consumers to pick their personal channel line-up from genres like sports, comedy, kids, news, movies and more. You can start building your perfect TV package for $20 per month and add only the Extras and premium channels you want. In an industry that works to prevent consumer choice, we’re introducing A La Carte TV.”

To be clear, Sling hasn’t changed its base offering. The company continues to offer an “Orange” tier of service for $20 per month that offers 30 channels including ESPN, Disney Channel, AMC, CNN, HGTV, and more. The company’s more expensive Sling Blue service offers more than 40 channels like FOX, NBC, regional sports (geographic restrictions apply), NFL Network, FX, and more. Sling TV customers can also add $5 per month “extras” that include bundles of channels focused on different genres like sports, comedy, kids or news.

However, Sling today did take the wraps off a new promotion that will essentially cut $80 from the price of a TV antenna. “Starting today, by prepaying for at least three months of Sling TV service, you can get an AirTV Player and AirTV Adapter for only $50, normally priced at $129.99,” Sling’s Glenn Eisen wrote on the company’s site. Customers can take advantage of the offer by prepaying for three months of Sling service.

As Multichannel News pointed out, AirTV combines over-the-air TV broadcasts with Sling’s over-the-top internet video streams, as well as Netflix, inside an Android TV-powered device. Dish introduced AirTV in January at the CES show, and recently released a software update that allows AirTV users to integrate local TV channels.

To juice the promotion, Sling’s Eisen also said the company is offering Sling TV customers 25% savings on an RCA antenna “to complete the AirTV experience.” 

Dish Network reported a surprising increase of 28,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2016—marking the first quarterly gain going back 10 earnings reports. Because Dish rolls subscriber metrics for its fast-growing virtual MVPD service, Sling TV, into a central bucket of customers, it’s safe to assume that it lost more ground in the area of traditional satellite distribution.