Sling TV has quietly added the ABC Television Network to its service in select markets, operator Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) confirms.
According to a Dish rep, ABC is available in the $5-a-month "Broadcast Extra" add-on package, which also includes Univision and UniMás channels. It is only available to Sling users in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno-Visalia. Sling customers need to call the company in order to get access to ABC.
As Dish notes, these markets represent more than half of the top 10 designated market areas (DMAs) and serve nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population.
The addition of a major broadcast network would mark a major product evolution for Sling TV, which has steadily built its programming bundle since launching a year ago.
Executives for ABC parent Disney recently talked up the service in their fourth-quarter earnings report. And John Skipper, president of ABC sibling network ESPN, said earlier this week that his channel is in talks with Dish about expanding its availability through streaming bundles.
"I think there's an opportunity for both Sling and the broadcast networks, but it's a bit complicated because there's O&O networks and then there's the affiliate and they are still fighting through their rights between the O&Os and the affiliates," Dish Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen said to investors Thursdday during Dish's fourth-quarter earnings call.
The ABC news comes as the Wall Street Journal — claiming to have spoke to individuals briefed on Sling's business — reported that the service now has 600,000 subscribers.
Dish has not reported an official subscriber count for Sling since the end of the second quarter last year, when it said the service had 169,000 customers. MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett estimates that Sling added 129,000 subs in the fourth quarter.
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