Dish-owned Sling TV is looking to take its internet-based TV service mainstream with a new multi-million-dollar ad campaign that stars grindhouse star and perpetual anti-hero Danny Trejo. The message of the ads, which are debuting on TV as well as online this week: Trejo may look scary, but your average TV bill is way scarier.
Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch told Variety during a recent interview that his company primarily focused on cord cutters and people who never had a pay TV subscription to begin with when it launched in early 2015. Now, it is expanding its focus to more aggressively steal away customers from existing pay TV services.
That’s in part because Sling TV has expanded its own service since its launch, and is now also offering consumers multiple simultaneous streams as well as local broadcast programming from ABC, NBC and Fox in select markets. “When we launched, we were focused on cord nevers,” Lynch said. “Now, we are a true full cable replacement.”
Lynch also said that the discussion around the future of pay TV has changed dramatically. Two years ago, many still doubted whether cord cutting even existed, he said. Now, most realize that significant pay TV subscriber losses continue, even as new homes are added to the market. In the last quarter alone, pay TV operators lost a collective 757,000 subscribers.
In other words: It’s getting bloody, and Sling TV decided to bring Danny Trejo with his axe.
Of course, the irony is that Sling TV’s ads are also pointing to everything that consumers dislike about its corporate parent Dish, including long-term contracts, add-on fees and big bundles. In the past, Sling TV executives argue that cannibalization wasn’t much of an issue.
However, Dish has been posting some significant subscriber losses recently, shedding 281,000 subscribers in Q2 of 2016 alone — and that’s despite the fact that the company is including Sling TV’s users in its subscriber numbers. Sling TV hasn’t revealed any metrics of its own recently, but analysts estimate that the service has around 700,000 paying customers.
In light of these numbers, Dish seems to be prepared to cannibalize itself rather than to leave it to others. “This is a strategy that’s driven from the top of the company,” said Lynch about Sling’s increasingly aggressive posture. Dish chairman Charlie Ergen believes that Sling’s take on pay TV is the way of the future, he added.
Lynch also argued that consumers would cut the cord regardless of whether Sling was available to them or not. “It’s not like we are changing consumer behavior.”
Still, the ads may not go over well with everyone, which could influence where consumers are going to see Sling TV’s new ads. Last time around, Comcast-owned NBCUniversal declined to broadcast Sling TV ads over its networks. “That was a lot of free press for us,” said Lynch.