Sling TV Looks to Woo Pay-TV Subscribers in New Campaign

Departs From Strategy of Solely Targeting Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers

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When Sling TV debuted 18 months ago, Dish Network positioned the streaming TV service as a solution to bringing back customers who have cut the cable cord and attract those who perhaps had never subscribed to a pay-TV service. But with its new marketing campaign, Sling is broadening its scope, trying to poach those who are subscribers to traditional cable and satellite TV packages.

Starring actor Danny Trejo, best known for his roles in "From Dusk Till Dawn" and "Machete," the goal of the "Who's Bad" campaign is to amplify the frustrations of pay-TV subscribers and present Sling TV as the solution.

While at its onset Sling TV wasn't actively trying to compel pay-TV subscribers to defect, Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch said over the past year-and-a-half the ecosystem has changed.

"We are at a major inflection point in our industry and business," Mr. Lynch said. "When we launched Sling 18 months ago the industry was still in denial that cord cutting even existed. Since then there's been a dramatic shift with people fleeing pay-TV." He points to a rise in people using digital antennas and subscribing to slimmed-down bundles offered by cable operators.

The "Who's Bad" campaign, created with agencies Identity and Camp & King, kicks off on Tuesday with four spots airing on broadcast and cable. In the spots, Mr. Trejo speaks directly to the camera with simmering resentment about cable's high prices and strong-arm tactics.

Sling tapped Mr. Trejo because he is "a badass," said Glenn Eisen, the company's chief marketing officer. "He gives a voice to dissatisfied consumers and shows that they do have a choice. There's no longer a one-size-fits-all model for TV."

Each of the four spots highlights a grip consumers have with pay-TV such as high costs, long-term contracts, hidden fees and price hikes.

Mr. Lynch said the choice shouldn't be "should I stay or should I go" and that Sling is an attractive option for those consumers dissatisfied with their pay-TV experience.

The pay-TV industry lost more than 750,000 subscribers in the second quarter, according to analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson, making it the biggest quarterly loss for the sector to date. It's worth noting that the quarter is typically a slower period for the sector. This is a 1.3% decline in subscribers from the same period last year. But if subscribers to Sling TV are included in the total, the pay-TV sector dropped 0.8% in the quarter.

By broadening its marketing, Sling TV's potential customer base goes from 16 million cord-nevers and cord-cutters to 100 million traditional pay-TV customers, in addition to those cord-nevers and cord-cutters.

Mr. Lynch declined to provide details on Sling TV's subscriber base, but Mr. Moffett estimates the service had just over 700,000 customers at the end of June.

The first subscribers to Sling TV were early adopters, who skewed younger and male, Mr. Lynch said. But the launch of Sling Blue, its multi-stream service, in June, has attracted more young families, he said.

Mr. Lynch said he isn't worried about cannibalizing Dish's customer base by broadening Sling's marketing.

"We aren't creating a trend; we are tapping into a trend that already exists," he said. "We think that a service like ours appeals to a different segment of consumers than Dish typically attracts."

While Dish's subscriber base tends to be located in more rural areas and skew older, Sling customers are yonger and more urban, Mr. Lynch said.

"We are probably least likely to cannibalize Dish," he said.

Additional elements of the new campaign include a home-page takeover on and, YouTube videos, digital, mobile and social ads, promotions on Sling TV supported devices like Apple TV, print ads and other direct-to-consumer promotions. Sling TV subscribers will also see a curated selection of Mr. Trejo's movies in their Sling TV guide that will be available to rent. 

Mr. Eisen declined to provide details on how much Sling is spending on the campaign, but noted that it is a multimillion-dollar marketing effort.

Sling also announced on Tuesday that it is folding its Spanish-language and bilingual packages into its general market offering. Previously, this content was offered through its Sling Latino package. But Mr. Eisen said Latino customers want both the general market offerings of Sling TV and the in-language programming of Sling Latino.

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