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Episode Seven: Man And Machine
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Dish Network, taking cues from popular online video services like Netflix and Amazon, is making over its Sling TV application, greeting users with popular shows rather than channels to appeal to their on-demand viewing preferences.
Dish unveiled the refreshed interface for its 23- channel, $20-a-month Sling TV streaming service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the product's introduction. As part of the new look, Dish is including "on now," a selection of live shows and sports, as well as show recommendations based on users' viewing habits.
"We wanted something more like Spotify rather than Comcast," Sling TV Chief Executive Officer Roger Lynch said in an interview, referring to the music streaming service and the cable provider.
The revamp aims to invigorate viewer interest in Sling TV amid a growing roster of online video services, including forthcoming offers from Apple and AT&T. Dish doesn't disclose its Sling subscriber count, though Macquarie Capital USA Inc. analyst Amy Yong estimated it at about 500,000, according to a report in mid-December. Market researcher Parks Associates lists it as the 10th largest by subscribers among online video services.
Still, Sling has helped offset Dish's satellite-TV subscriber losses, according to analyst Craig Moffett at MoffettNathanson. Like other big pay-TV providers, Dish faces the challenge of losing customers and revenue as more people move from big program packages to alternatives like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
Sling TV features channels -- like Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, Time Warner's TNT and Scripps Networks Interactive's Food Network -- are designed to attract viewers that don't subscribe to conventional pay-TV packages, as well as those who want to disconnect their cable, the so-called cord-nevers and cord-cutters.
Separately, Dish introduced two new devices at CES. One is the $15-a-month Hopper 3 set-top box that is capable of playing ultra high-definition 4K video and has a 2-terabyte hard drive and the capacity to record as many as 16 shows simultaneously. The other gadget is the HopperGo, a $99 portable storage device for recorded programs that can be connected to mobile phones and tablets for playback.