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Sling used to say it wasn’t promoting cord cutting. Now it’s running cord-cutting ads.

A skinny bundle is better than no bundle at all.

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.

When Dish Network introduced Sling, its web TV subscription service, last year, it tried to walk a delicate line: It wanted to convince customers that its service was better than traditional pay TV while convincing TV networks that it wasn’t going after its customers.

Now it’s done with the balancing act: A new marketing campaign is aimed directly at people who have pay TV and convincing them that Sling is better — and, crucially, cheaper.

Here’s a sample of Sling’s new ads, featuring scary longtime character actor Danny Trejo*. They’ll run in English and Spanish, and on digital platforms as well as conventional TV.

Arguing that cable TV packages are expensive and full of stuff you don’t want isn’t a controversial opinion. Unless you work for or with the TV Industrial Complex.

But Sling is a two-fer: Parent company Dish Network sells very traditional TV packages, and Sling’s partners, like Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast’s NBCUniversal**, all make lots of money because their networks are included in those packages.

So when Sling launched last year, it took great pains to argue that it wasn’t telling people to drop their traditional TV packages. Instead, it said, it was targeting people who had already cut the cord, or never signed up for the cord in the first place.

Even that idea seemed risky to Disney, Sling’s first partner, which included a clause in its deal that allowed it to bail out if Sling got too popular, and Disney concluded that it was cutting into its subscriber base.

Cut to today: Sling is doing okay, with about 700,000 subscribers. Just as important, the TV guys are justifiably nervous about losing customers, period. And Sling can now argue that the cable networks are better off with customers cutting their big TV packages and moving to Sling’s slimmer packages than cutting the cord altogether.

“Things have changed since we first launched. We’re not causing the change. We’re observing the change,” said Sling CEO Roger Lynch. “People are leaving the industry all on their own. We don’t need to encourage them to do that.”

Lynch says the TV programmers who work with Sling “are very excited about our growth, and they only want to help us grow faster,” so they won’t complain about an ad campaign aimed right at traditional TV.

This stuff still isn’t clear-cut, though. If you watch the ad again, you may notice what’s not there: Any mention or reference to any particular show or network in Sling’s lineup. (Yes, that’s a zombie. No, that’s not a shot from AMC’s “Walking Dead” franchise.)

* You say “Con Air.” I say “Breaking Bad.”

** NBCUniversal is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

This article originally appeared on

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