clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Do Sling TV's New Web TV Ads Target Cord-Nevers or Cord-Cutters? Take a Look and Decide.

The pitch: Pay TV is so lousy, it's comparable to buying a used car. You don't have to have done it to get it.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Dish Network says its Sling Web TV service is aimed at millennials who’ve never had pay TV — not at people who have pay TV but want to cut the cord and get a cheaper option over the Internet.

But Sling, which launched in February, seems to want it both ways: It tells its industry partners it wants to generate new customers for them, not cannibalize them. But it has been telling prospective customers that it’s time to “take back TV” — which seems hard to do unless you were already getting pay TV.

Now the company is launching its first 60- and 30-second commercials, which also seem geared toward people who have pay TV — perhaps a Dish subscription — and hate it. If you’re very time-pressed you can get the gist from the titles of the ads: “Old TV Model,” “Useless Channels” and “Customer Service.”

So. Which is it, Sling marketing chief Glenn Eisen — people who know and hate pay TV, or people who’ve never paid for TV?

It’s the same group, Eisen insists. People who haven’t signed up for pay TV are well aware that pay TV can be lousy — just like people who’ve never bought a used car know that buying a used car may not be a super-awesome time.

“What we found, when we interviewed millennials, is that you didn’t need to have that subscription experience to have an opinion about it,” Eisen said. “Strangely enough, even those who have never had the service can recite all of the pain points that we list in the first three spots.”

Okeydoke! So far, Sling has found some takers for its service, even without an in-your-face campaign. Last month we heard that Sling had at least 250,000 paying subscribers for the $20-a-month service. But the Web TV market, which was very quiet until this year, is getting noisier, so it makes sense to start carving out some brand space now (better have it ready before Apple shows up).

It is worth noting that Sling is going with a message about discomfort rather than promoting all the awesome things you can watch when you give them $20 a month. That’s the approach pay TV has normally used, and that’s what Web TV services like HBO, Hulu and Showtime are pushing now. (Sony’s campaign for its Vue service is … hard to parse.) Maybe the Sling guys have a good reason for not going that route themselves.

This article originally appeared on