Dish's Sling TV CEO: We might build an app for the new Apple TV

AMSTERDAM -- Roger Lynch, the CEO of Dish Network's Sling TV service, said the company is evaluating Apple's new TV service and might develop a Sling TV app for the platform.


"It could be an opportunity for us," he said in an interview with FierceCable on the sidelines of the IBC show. "We'll evaluate it."

Lynch praised Apple's new approach to the TV market, noting that the company's new Apple TV App Store offers more flexibility to content providers like Sling TV than the company's previous Apple TV product.

"It's nice to see them going to more of an app store model. I think that's pretty encouraging. Because it had been a pretty closed platform previously," he said.

Lynch said Sling TV couldn't easily integrate its service with Apple's previous TV offering, which only offered video-on-demand services from a handful of content suppliers like Netflix, Amazon and HBO.

"You can't write an app [on Apple's previous TV offering]. You can put your content into their template. And their templates are really designed around VOD services," he said. "We have a service that has hundreds of live channels, with look-back and VOD built into all of that. And it doesn't fit into that template very well. So what they announced with the new Apple TV is an App Store, so you can actually create an app like you can on iOS. So that would give companies more flexibility with their apps."

But Lynch stopped short of promising a Sling TV app for the new Apple TV. "We'll evaluate what their business terms are," he said.

Importantly, Lynch said Sling TV does not activate new customers through its existing iOS app; instead, the company activates new mobile customers through its mobile website. That's because Sling TV doesn't want to split its revenues with Apple -- Apple takes a 30 percent cut of all the transactions that are conducted on its App Store.

"There's not enough margin in this business to be subject to their terms and conditions," Lynch noted.

Sling TV's stance is noteworthy considering that Lynch said the "vast majority" of Sling TV's new customers are activating service on a mobile device, usually a mobile phone. Lynch said that, after users activate the service, their usage generally migrates to TVs.

"We do a lot of digital mobile social marketing," Lynch explained.

Beyond Apple TV, Lynch said that he would like to add local TV stations to Sling TV's streaming service. However, he said the licensing situation is too complex and expensive for Sling TV to obtain the rights to those services. He said the company wants to be able to offer local TV stations as an add-on that customers can choose to pay for. Lynch's comments are noteworthy considering Apple is reportedly in discussions with the likes of ABC, CBS and NBC to offer a streaming video service that would offer content from local TV stations.

Finally, Lynch addressed the recent streaming glitches that Sling TV has experienced during popular broadcasts like AMC's Fear the Walking Dead premiere. He said that Dish began work on Sling TV five years ago, when Lynch was hired specifically to build the service. He said that Sling TV's streaming technology was built by an internal team of engineers, largely from Dish's acquisition of adaptive bit-rate technology provider Move Networks in 2011. He said the company currently counts around 90 engineers working on the service and 20 IT experts.

He said the recent streaming glitches only affected a small portion of Sling TV's overall subscriber base (Lynch declined to say how many customers Sling TV has).

Streaming video "is a lot more complicated than doing VOD," he said. "It's been a learning process for us."

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