The recent news of Sling TV making its way onto Comcast 's X1 cable box read like a joke at first, but the news has since settled in and apparently it's very true. Even with the passage of time since the announcement it remains unusual — but is it really as crazy as we think?
Don’t get us wrong: it’s good for consumers. The more options Comcast offers, the better. It’s just a strange move on both Comcast and Sling TV’s parts. They’re competitors . What could they possibly have to gain?
Let's take a look.
What Is The X1?
The X1, made by Comcast, is a cloud-based, internet-connected cable box. It’s like the offspring of a Roku and a normal cable box, in that it can run a bunch of different apps (like Netflix, for instance, and soon Sling TV) but still give Comcast subscribers their usual cable box experience in accessing their programming.
What Is Sling TV?
Sling TV is an OTT TV service — like Playstation Vue or DirecTV Now — that offers channel programming like classic cable, but purely over an internet connection. The appeal is smaller channel bundles for lower prices than what classic cable offers. It's an app that requires third party hardware to use it, too, like an Amazon Fire TV or Playstation 4.
Sling TV is owned by Dish Network.
Wait, So Why Would Comcast…
Allow the Dish Network to offer an app on a Comcast cable box? That’s where things get weird. On the surface, it looks like customers would be paying for a TV service (Comcast) to then be able to pay yet again for the same TV channels (on Sling) they already get from Comcast. Why would anyone want do that?
Well, not all of those TV channels double up, and there is programming available to Sling TV that isn’t available for Comcast — especially for “ multicultural consumers ” in the form of non-English programming. So we start to see the reasoning behind it on Comcast’s end.
For Sling, it’s more about getting the service in front of a bunch of eyes, like the millions of customers that have the potential to get fed up with Comcast. Those unhappy people might give Sling a chance through a free trial and wind up either doubling up on subscriptions for the extra programming... or cut ties with Comcast entirely. That's a win/win for Sling, because remember: even if the X1 box goes away with the canceled Comcast subscription, people can still find Sling elsewhere on other devices.
Comcast Playing Nice
Could it be true, though? It really does feel like Comcast is trying to offer an all-around package with the X1 that might entice customers to stay, especially by treating apps like Netflix as they do HBO (which, you know, is exactly what Netflix wants)— as a premium channel that gets offered like all the others. The question remains, though: will people really be inclined to pay the extra $40+ for much of the same programming they already get with their Comcast subscription, or will the Sling TV app end up going largely ignored?
We’ll just have to wait and see. There is no official debut date, but according to Engadget , it will be coming soon enough.