The Best of CES 2014 product was a television industry disrupting product: The Hopper from DISH Network. After awarding the product, CBS demanded that the award be revoked because of ongoing litigation over the product. CBS owns CNET, the company that was, at the time, responsible for the Best of CES awards. In 2015, the awards were transferred to AOL-owned Engadget who, once again, gave the award to a television industry disrupting service: Sling TV.
The service was launched to the public shortly after CES, and was welcomed with both critical and customer appreciation. The question that many of us asked, however, was how will a company like this, who is trying to change the way people interact with live television, going to screw it up. They weren't facing potential legal action like Aereo, but they had the potential to anger cable companies.
This week according to Sling CEO Roger Lynch, the company finally figured out how to accomplish this goal. Their new television ad, which will begin to air soon, shows the traditional cable companies as mean kids, bullying their customers. While this does play into their business model perfectly, it does pose a few pretty obvious problems for getting those ads run on television. The first, most obvious problem is that they will unlikely be able to run these ads on cable networks.
Many of the ads run on cable are injected by the local cable provider, with a revenue share program with the networks themselves. It is unlikely that a company like Comcast, Charter or Time Warner will purposely run an advertisement for a competitor that portrays them as mean kids. That leaves some direct sales opportunities for some of the networks, but does bring their marketing focus down to mostly broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.
As the company submitted their ad to affiliates across the country for the big 4, they were met with what they seem to think was a surprising result. ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates all agreed to run the ads, while NBC affiliates denied the relationship. This is likely because NBC is owned and operated by Comcast, who was still not content with the advertisements.
Sling has taken this as an indication that their marketing is right, and has played up the disruptive angle of the company, citing Comcast's fear of the service and of the marketing. Lynch said of Comcast,
Comcast has a demonstrated history of shutting down ideas it doesn't like or understand, predictably to its benefit and at the expense of consumers. This is why we aggressively fought Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable. Our argument? That this massive conglomerate would use its incredible market power in broadband to thwart live Internet video services like Sling TV.
The future of television is certainly a different landscape than is currently available, and traditional cable companies like Comcast are understandably concerned. That is mostly because they are unwilling or unable to adjust their own business models to embrace the change, and will continue to fight them instead. In the end, it will likely end companies like Comcast as they are today, as opposed to using their immense resources to lead the shift.