That's why the satellite-TV provider started Sling TV in January, rolling out a "slim" bundle of 22 channels for $20 a month, available online. Sling TV targets viewers who prefer to watch a handful of premium channels rather than signing up for a traditional pay-TV subscription that offers hundreds of channels they may not ever watch.
Dish's offering comes as media companies are trying hard to capitalize on the popularity of Internet-based streaming services, most particularly Netflix (NFLX), the unequivocal leaders in video streaming.
While Sling TV offers a compelling menu of channels -- Disney's (DIS) ESPN, Time Warner's (TWX) TBS and CNN, AMC Networks' (AMCX) flagship network -- it doesn't offer viewers what they get at Netflix: a deep backlog of films and television shows easily accessed on demand.
That's likely one reason that Sling TV has booked just 250,000 subscribers since it began six months ago, according to a report earlier this month from Re/code. Netflix, which has been around since 1999, has 41 million subscribers while Hulu, the on-demand platform owned jointly by Comcast (CMCSA), Disney (DIS) and 21st Century Fox (FOXA), has 9 million subscribers.
One big advantage Sling has over Netflix is that it offers live sports, courtesy of ESPN. The all-sports channel is the most popular offering on pay-TV. Yet, on-demand has become the feature that online viewers have come to expect. So, even as the number of pay TV subscribers falls in proportion to U.S. households, there's no guarantee Sling TV subscribers will ever come close to Netflix.
"If there's one thing that I know, it's that consumers want to shift time more than anything else, said Michael Vorhaus, President of the research and consulting practice Magid Advisors. "The real question is, is there anything in the skinny bundle that I really have to have."
For subscriptions to really explode, said Vorhaus, Sling TV will need to let viewers choose not just where to watch, but when.