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Sling TV Slumps Amid Streaming Glut

While Dish Network’s core satellite-TV business is once again experiencing accelerated declines, it can no longer count on Sling TV as a buffer for its subscriber metrics.

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen

Dish’s nearly four-year-old virtual multichannel video programming distributor added just 26,000 customers in Q3. The operator wasn’t yet breaking out Sling subscriber metrics last November, but estimates were that it gained around 240,000 Sling TV users in Q3 2017.

The just-finished third quarter is thought to be Sling TV’s slowest since it launched in Q1 2015, alongside Sony PlayStation Vue.

“I think one of the phenomenons you’re seeing is — I don’t think that [the] OTT business is slowing down,” chairman Charlie Ergen said during Dish’s Q3 earnings call. “I think it’s probably accelerating [overall]. But you’re seeing a lot more players in the marketplace than just Dish and Sony, now with DirecTV and now with YouTube and others and Hulu.”

Some deceleration for Sling TV undoubtedly came from a $5 monthly price increase applied to the vMVPD’s base Orange tier during the quarter — an effect Dish expects to continue through Q4.

But the vMVPD sector, led by Sling TV and its 2.37 million subscribers, does seem to be cooling overall. The runner-up in the category, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, added just 49,000 users in Q3 after growing by 342,000 customers in the second quarter. (DirecTV Now added 296,000 users in the third quarter of 2017.) That platform’s deceleration came as AT&T ended a number of sign-up promotions.