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Sling TV: Little Market Awareness, Lots of Confusion with Slingbox

The over-the-top TV revolution has begun with Dish’s Sling TV in the marketplace, but the results of a new survey suggest tepid initial interest in the product.

Just 11% of 2,871 who responded to a Feb. 1 survey conducted by Ipsos MediaCT in the U.S. were aware of the satcaster’s mini-bundle of 14 broadband-delivered networks available as of Feb. 9 for $20 per month.

That number doesn’t fluctuate much depending on the demo. For instance, the 18- to 34-year-old group seen as the intended target audience for Sling TV had 12% awareness, the same level as the 18-64 group.

But here’s the kicker: Those numbers are probably inflated by those confusing Sling TV with another, more established TV-related product, Slingbox. A sizable 44% of  those in the 18-34 group who said they had heard of Sling TV confessed to confusing the two different products when prompted with mention of Slingbox; the confusion is markedly higher in older demos.

Given 53% across 18-64 made the same mistake, that would bring that 11% awareness figure to just 6%. Sounds like Dish has some explaining to do in order to differentiate Sling TV from Slingbox; perhaps a different brand name would be an even better route.

Not making matters any better is that when all survey respondents were explained what the Sling TV product actually was, awareness ticked up only a little. Among the target millennials, the “aided awareness” figure went up to 18% from 12% unaided. Older demos registered smaller increases.

As for how many people might actually be interested in subscribing to Sling TV, the numbers are discouraging. Sixty-seven percent of 18-34s said they were not interested, which was, again, the lowest level among demos.

Of the 33% who did express an interest in subscribing, 19% saw its value as a complement to their existing subscription as opposed to the 14% who saw that as a replacement. Those figures might either speak to a confusion in the marketplace as to what Sling TV is because all of its channels are already part of the traditional pay-TV system or the broadband delivery to devices beyond the TV may give subs more value they feel they aren’t getting from their existing subscription despite the duplication of content.

Asked how many were considering getting rid of their pay-TV subscriptions, 60% of 18-34s raised their hand. Those aware of Sling TV were more likely to be considering cutting the cord, natch.

Given Sling TV’s connection to Dish, perhaps it’s no surprise that satellite customers seem to be more aware of the product than subscribers to cable, telco or cord-cutters. Satellite subs, for instance, had 25% aided awareness, compared with telco at 18%, cable at 16%, and in a sign that cord-cutters will need a lot more wooing, just 9%.

How to interpret these results depends on your perspective. On the one hand, Dish has barely begun marketing Sling TV, so scant public awareness of the product makes sense. On the other hand, you might expect a little more pre-launch recognition given the extensive coverage of a service that has been hailed as the antidote to what ails a 100 million-plus market fed up with the expensive channel bundle.

But either way, the numbers provide a good starting point for understanding the existing appetite in the marketplace for Sling TV.


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