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Sling TV’s Subscriber Problem Is Getting Worse

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After ending 2023 with 2.06 million subscribers, it is clear that Sling TV is still struggling to find more users. The live TV service’s subscriber base not only declined in 2023, but Sling TV started 2024 with fewer subscribers than it started 2018 with.

Previously, we had considered Sling’s subscriber base to be in a state of stagnation. Unlike YouTube TV’s consistent subscriber growth, for example, Sling’s subscriber base had remained relatively the same over the past couple of years, typically fluctuating between 2 and 2.5 million.

With a subscriber base that tends to fluctuate as much as this one, it is somewhat normal for Sling to report ups and downs. However, we can’t help but notice that Sling’s subscriber base has been more stable than usual over the past year, fluctuating between 2 and 2.1 million instead of the usual 2 and 2.5 million.

With 2023 now complete, and subscriber data counted, Sling didn’t seen any subscriber growth at all during the year. The 2.06 million reported for Q4 2023 is down when compared to the 2.12 million reported at the end of the third quarter of 2023. Although slightly up on the 2 million reported for the second quarter, it is also down on 2.1 million reported at the close of the first quarter of the year.

Between the end of the first and fourth quarters of 2023, Sling’s subscriber base declined by around 40,000. However, the picture looks far worse when comparing annual changes.

Sling’s subscriber high in 2023 was Q3’s 2.12 million. Compare this to Q3 2022 when Sling reported 2.41 million subscribers. Sling’s highest subscriber point of the year was down almost 300,000 when compared to the same quarter in 2022.

The same pattern is seen when looking at the full calendar year. Considering Sling ended 2023 with 2.06 million subscribers, the live TV service lost around 275,000 subscribers when compared to the 2.334 million subscribers reported for the end of 2022.

That 2.33 million subscribers at the close of 2022 was also down more than 160,000 when compared to the end of 2021. Even if you go back as far as 2018, you still won’t find a year where Sling started with as few subscribers as it started 2024 with.

Year (start)Subscribers

Sling started 2018 with 2.21 million subscribers, over 150,000 more than it started 2024 with. Between 2018 and 2020 the service continued to add subscribers and seemed to be growing at a good rate. Sling did see a drop in 2020 before registering another year-over-year increase in 2021, but the subscriber base has just continually declined since then.

With Sling starting the year with what seems to be the lowest subscriber count it has started a year with since before 2018, it is clear that Sling is struggling to gain new subscribers. This is in spite of remaining cheaper than most other services.

Fubo and YouTube TV are two of the most expensive around and yet both have continued to see growth each year. While Fubo’s base is nowhere near the size of YouTube TV’s, Fubo posted a record high number of subscribers in the U.S. at the end of 2023, and it is now closing in on Sling TV.

To put this point into perspective, Sling TV started 2023 with roughly 890,000 subscribers more than Fubo. At the start of 2024, Sling only had around 440,000 more subscribers in the U.S. than Fubo. If 2024 was to play out in a similar way to 2023, we may see Fubo’s subscriber base in the U.S. overtake Sling TV’s by the start of 2025, if not before.

Technically, Hulu Live TV also seems to be encountering its own stagnation, as Hulu’s live TV service has also struggled to increase its subscriber base at the same rate as in the past. Unlike Sling TV, however, Hulu Live TV’s subscriber base stood at well over 4 million at the start of 2024, and that’s technically up on the start of all previous years.

John Finn
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John Finn

By John Finn

John Finn is the Founder and Editor of Streaming Better, a platform created in 2019 to help consumers navigate the complicated live TV streaming and subscription service market.

John has been covering technology for various online publications since 2014. After originally covering the wider tech industry as a writer and editor, John now spends his time focusing on the emerging video-streaming market, including live TV streaming, SVOD, AVOD, FAST, and TVOD services.

In a bid to keep up to date on the industry, John actively subscribes to multiple streaming services at the same time. However, John continues to advocate that the best approach for consumers is to rotate between streaming services as needed.

A Psychology graduate from England, who now lives in the US, John previously worked in the aviation industry as an airline reviewer. While reviewing airlines isn't quite the same as reviewing devices and streaming services, John brings the same analytical eye to all of his reviews and industry analysis, along with a special emphasis on what's best for the consumer.

Connect with John
X: @J_Finns

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