In our predictions for 2023, we proposed the idea that (Sling TV owner) Dish Network would buy out DirecTV. The satellite company needs to make aggressive moves for a chance to stay relevant as the landscape around pay TV transforms. Of course, there is almost nothing to be done about Satellite TV. The industry is losing customers quickly. There is currently a population for whom satellite TV is the only viable option to get content like major TV networks and pay TV channels, but aside from that, millions of people who can get high-speed Internet are exploring other options.
The satellite TV industry is getting hit hard on multiple fronts. Satellite TV delivery was a very important development when it first started showing up. In places where companies would not run cable lines because of distance or other logistical challenges, satellite dishes from Dish and DirecTV were a game-changer that brought communities into the modern era of TV. In communities with cable TV available, they were another option with aggressive pricing deals that allowed customers to leverage one against the other. But in most of the country, the rise of high-speed Internet made satellite TV less appealing. Even worse an unanticipated problem totally unrelated to cancellation has also put a roadblock in the way of the satellite industry. As more communities started HOAs people living in many neighborhoods did not even have the option to have a dish installed on their homes. This was a move that prevented the business from growing no matter how aggressive they got on pricing or how many people approached you at Best Buy to talk about how you got your TV. Dish and DirecTV should have sued HOAs for instituting rules that essentially banned their businesses from operating. But instead, they went a different route. Introducing their own streaming services.
As soon as the two leading satellite services launched the first live TV streaming services the writing was on the wall that they were looking to change their business models. Because they were so much cheaper than traditional pay services at the start people thought that they were the solution for cheap TV forever. But really they were just sort of beta-testing new delivery systems for the same old thing. Its no coincidence that prices go up every year for every service. These channels cost money to deliver.
So all that being said, here is what I think we should look for going forward. Dish Network, as we have mentioned in other stories has long been expected to buy out DirecTV/DirecTV Stream/U-Verse. The combined company would have over 20 million customers. Sometime around the announcement that they are putting together the merger, you will also see that Dish Network/Sling TV has entered into some kind of partnership with a 5G provider. Verizon, T-Mobile, even maybe a major cable internet provider that has decided to dump TV entirely. But either way, it will be something utilizing a delivery system that will allow them to reach their core satellite customers. Once that is in place throughout their satellite-only footprint you will see Dish Network begin to sunset the entire satellite TV business in favor of streaming. I’m not sure exactly what exactly that will look like but I have a feeling it will be like a combo of the two companies. Do you want a big bundle service with a big bundle price? Use a renamed DirecTV Stream (Sling Deluxe). Do you want to have more flexibility with addons? Use Sling basic (a reworked package similar to what it offers now) But it will all be delivered through smart TV’s and streaming devices instead of dishes and receivers. Then they will be able to cut out all of the expenses (jobs) from installers and the overhead of all that extra equipment, and vans, etc. Maybe the company will continue with Android or Google TV-based boxes, currently offered by DirecTV Stream as an option, and have 3rd party installers set them up along with the 5G service. But the new company will be a lot slimmer than it either Dish or DirecTV is today.
The ironic thing is that AT&T had the right idea when it bought into the TV world with Warner Brothers and DirecTV. It just did it a little too early before the delivery system was good enough to cash in. Then it went into debt-dropping mode. Trying to leverage a streaming service and a cell phone data plan together could not take off the way they needed back when people didn’t understand what streaming services were or where they were available. Had AT&T built up a nationwide 5G network with little home receivers first it would have been able to sweep in and take the market. But the capability just didn’t exist.
If Dish makes this kind of move it will further shrink the streaming TV landscape that has been contracting over the past five years. It will create a big four of Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV and Fubo TV.
Expect Google to look to expand its Internet delivery capabilities. Google Fiber has been on the market for quite some time now and it would not surprise me in the least if the company made a move towards satellite-based Internet. Maybe it will do what it often does and just buy out Star Link. Disney will have to make a move to strengthen its relationship with Internet providers as well. Either way, there is a big shift coming. I think another Streaming TV provider will likely shut down or be bought out. In the end, It will affect how people spend leisure time, it will affect the job market and it will likely end a way that people have watched TV for 40 years.