Why You Shouldn’t Be Angry At Sling For Raising Prices
Sling announced a price increase this week that will see its base Blue and Orange plans go from $35 to $40, and the combined plans from $50 to $55. And with another price increase, I can already tell we will see people understandably complaining online about how vMVPDs are priced no better than cable, just as they did with Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV. And this always enrages me.
Online pay TV providers, or vMVPDs, started with ridiculously low prices back when they first launched. Whether that’s because they were missing big-name channels, or they just wanted to lure people in, tech savvy customers came to the services in the wake of a time when many customers were dropping cable TV altogether.
And then the inevitable happened. Prices rose. Whether it’s because big-name channels were added, the company deciding enough time had passed for the attention-grabbing lower price, or simply the hopes of more people joining to keep the price low never materializing. Whatever the case may be, these companies are businesses. They are there to make a profit.
And every time a price increase occurs, people go online and complain that the prices are creeping up to cable TV, and they’ll claim that these services were supposed to disrupt and undercut the cable industry. And that always confuses me because they absolutely do. Look at what you’ll pay for the most expensive vMVPD, DirecTV Stream, and compare that to regular DirecTV or even your local cable provider. Yes, you’ll see a nice low introductory rate, but what do you have to do to get that rate? Sign a contract, or ride out the one year of low-priced service? Then what happens? It goes right back up, and I can almost guarantee you it costs more than DirecTV Stream. Especially when you factor in the equipment rentals for each TV in the house, the hidden fees that are curiously not either factored in or explained, and all the other garbage associated with cable, and it is a far worse experience. The only good thing is the nice remote you get that only handles cable, which admittedly is a nice feature if you’re used to having numbers and other dedicated cable buttons.
But look at the experience of services like Sling, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and DirecTV Stream. The price you see is the price you pay. Download the app on your devices, whether that’s your phone, tablet, computer, or TV, and it’s ready to go. You don’t have to call someone or walk into a store. And then all the channels are ready to watch anywhere without needing a cable wire where you want your TV to live. And Cloud DVR is almost always included and available on every device, so you don’t have to worry about which cable box is handling the recording. Plus, at any time, you can cancel the service. DirecTV seems to be very DirecTV about cancellations on Stream, but the rest of the services are a simple cancellation website. Easy and simple. And even though I like the regional channels on my local Spectrum lineup that aren’t available on YouTube TV service, coupled with Spectrum’s lack of contracts, I have resisted going back to Spectrum because they aren’t transparent with their pricing.
And if you want to blame anyone for pricing, blame the cable channels. With lower viewership due to cord cutters, they have continued to raise carriage fees for their channels to offset the lower advertising revenue. But this only serves to make the problems worse with raised costs for cable, causing more people to want to drop the service altogether. Which is exactly why Sling is raising their rates.
Disney got into a carriage dispute with Sling for two likely reasons. One is the fact that in the before times, Disney-owned channels like Disney Channel, Freeform, and a little channel called ESPN were on Sling Orange and Fox-owned channels like Nat Geo, FX, and the Fox Sports channels were on Sling Blue. Now Disney owns both and they don’t appreciate that customers can opt out of paying the insane fees for ESPN. And reason number 2, they simply want more money for those channels in general.
And Sling can’t win either way. They either drop the channels and anger customers who wanted ESPN, FX, Freeform, or the other networks, OR they keep the channels and are forced to charge more for the service, resulting in anger as well. Which isn’t to say Sling is innocent in the matter. Of course, they want to make more money for themselves, but in most cases of carriage disputes, the money goes to the cable channels.
I’m not saying cable customers have no right to be at least annoyed in these situations. I am just asking that you direct your anger to the companies behind the cable channels that continue to raise carriage fees during a time when viewership is at its worst and the high cost of cable is what is causing customers to flee.