Are streaming services blurring the TV picture?

Written by on February 13, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

Friends watching sports on TVThe traditional paid television business model has remained largely unchanged for decades. You call up your local cable or satellite provider – that is, if you have more than one to choose from – and after the requisite credit check and waiting at home all day for the tech to arrive you have hundreds of channels at your fingertips.

And while technologies have changed over the past 30 years, and we have more channels than we know what to do with, customers have always been a bit unhappy about paying for the dozens of channels they will never watch. And as studies have shown, so-called millennials are especially averse to paying for cable or satellite service, with most splitting their time between live television and watching either online, on demand or on a DVR.

Sling TV hopes to shake up the market with its new $20-a-month live service that allows customers to watch a selection of channels on an array of devices – even their actual TV sets – without the hassle of a contract, waiting for the cable guy to turn up or extra fees that seem to get tacked onto most bills.

Customers get popular channels such as CNN, ESPN, Disney, Travel, HGTV, Food and Disney. For an extra $5, they can choose from several different add-on packages that offer more sports, news or kids programming. Sling will soon add AMC, known for such hit shows as The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Conspicuously missing are broadcast channels, so better not put away those rabbit ears just yet!

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Sling’s service is that it’s actually being offered by satellite provider Dish Network, which doesn’t seem to feel that the streaming channels pose any threat to its core bundle of services. Dish sees this as a play to make inroads with millennials and others who have never had traditional cable or satellite service.

While there have been previous attempts to cater to the cord-cutters, most notably online services such as Hulu, iTunes and Amazon, which offer episodes of television shows soon after they air, those who still want to watch live television, especially sporting events, haven’t had much luck beyond going to their local bar or pub.

But with recent news that HBO will offer a standalone streaming service as early as April – with reports that almost 20 percent of U.S. broadband customers will likely sign up for it – and CBS and other networks also on the cusp of bringing similar services to market, it’ll be interesting to see how the market shakes out. Paying $20 a month for a dozen channels seems reasonable, but once you add $15 for HBO, $5 or $6 for CBS and on and on and then tack on fees for Netflix and other streaming content services, pretty soon you’re paying at least as much as, if not more, than a traditional cable or satellite package.

And speaking of Netflix, in a somewhat perplexing move this week the company announced that its streaming service is now available in Cuba, a huge gamble in a country where the average income is $20 a month and most people don’t have international credit cards or even broadband access. For the time being, the beneficiaries will be foreigners staying in higher-end hotels, but that might change as the embargo is lifted and companies rush in to modernize a country that’s largely still stuck in the ‘60s.

Expect to hear much more this year about streaming service offerings and other interesting ways to get original programming and live events to the masses. And hopefully the cable guy can find a job that doesn’t require people to wait for him all day.

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About the Author

About the Author: Anita is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering just about everything in the technology space with a focus on computer networking and telecommunications. She was managing editor of Billing & OSS World magazine and technology editor at Network magazine and most recently was in charge of newsletter coverage at TM Forum. .


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