Comcast Co-opts Cord-Cutters With Sling TV
Following on the heels of its Netflix integration, Comcast has now announced that it will bring Sling TV to the X1 platform.
Details on the newest integration aren't settled yet, but if the Sling TV addition to X1 mimics the Netflix model, it will put Sling content side by side with Comcast programming in the X1 guide. Sling TV content will also likely be available through other search-and-discovery features, including both traditional on-screen search, and voice queries and commands. (See Comcast Adds Sling TV to X1 and Comcast Binges on Netflix in New Beta.)
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) are billing their new partnership as a multicultural win, with Sling TV offering content "for diverse audiences and language groups, including Arabic, Chinese, Urdu and more." That is an accurate depiction, and the deal does give Comcast a way to provide new ethnic and foreign-language programming without having to invest further in its own content library or perhaps having to enter the shark-infested waters of typical program licensing negotiations. The deal with Dish over Sling TV looks more like how Comcast partners with premium channels like HBO and Showtime than how the cable company determines carriage agreements with networks like Discovery and ESPN.
The other way to consider the Sling TV integration, however, is to put it in the context of Comcast's role in the world of over-the-top video and cable cord-cutting. Sling TV launched as the ultimate skinny-bundle service, and as an alternative to traditional high-priced pay-TV packages. Now it looks more like niche programming, and a way for Comcast to make yet more money on big-bundle customers.
Cord-cutting behavior is still modest today, with approximately 80% of US households still subscribing to a traditional pay-TV service. (See Why Cord-Cutting Continues.)
The question is, will a new generation of consumers continue to pay close to $100 per month for TV, or will younger cohorts abandon ship in favor of cheaper options? And, is Comcast likely to attract more of these viewers by bringing services like Sling TV into the fold, or will it ruin the appeal by making them look more like old cable with premium service tiers?
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading