Dish/ESPN To Team Up To Finally Unleash Streaming Sports Without Cable

from the touchdown dept

For years, I’ve begged and pleaded with the powers that be for major American sports to be untethered from cable television and released into the world of real internet streaming options. Then the dominoes finally, albeit extremely slowly, began to drop. Even as some leagues wasted opportunities to expand streaming, like the NHL, other leagues are slowly beginning to let the door creak open. The most recent example was the NBA negotiating their broadcast contracts such that internet streaming was expanded considerably. While the expansion was real, the overall penetration in terms of the gross number of games that would be streamed is still limited. The other notable aspect of the NBA deal was that the streaming expansion was clearly being forced upon broadcasters by the NBA as part of the negotiations, rather than broadcasters themselves embracing streaming.

It looks like the times are a-changing a bit faster than even I would have thought. For what I believe is the first time, major cable sports is coming to internet-only subscribers in a partnership between ESPN and Dish.

Lots of people say they want to ditch cable TV for the Web, but can’t because they want to watch sports — specifically the stuff on ESPN, which has a hammerlock on much of the sports world. Now they will finally get a chance: Dish’s new Web-TV service, which the company is formally announcing today, lets you stream ESPN, over the Web, for $20 a month.

Dish’s “Sling TV”* offering, which the company says will launch “soon,” also comes with 10 other non-ESPN channels, including the Food Network, CNN and the Travel Channel, and the ability to add more networks for additional fees.

A couple of things that you’ll hear from the detractors are obvious. First, twenty bucks a month for 11 cable channels added to your ISP bill doesn’t sound like the greatest deal money-wise. Add to that that this deal has been done with Dish and not a company like Comcast, AT&T, or the like and it’s easy to see this move as ESPN dipping its toe in the streaming waters to see if there be sharks down there. Let me respond to both of those points: neither matters even a little bit.

This is all about trending and the trends are clearly in favor of expanded streaming by all parties that desire to stay in business. If the price point is too high for the number of channels received, it will come down to meet demand, because the demand is the driving force. If this is a Dish-only deal today, it won’t be the moment ESPN recognizes the value in offering it in the future. The company will either insist other carriers offer something similar or they’ll simply open up their web product directly, which I think would be the better choice for them anyway, because this is ESPN we’re talking about and having them stream matters.

Getting ESPN in the streaming game means the modern concept of cable television subscriptions has had its coffin built and is awaiting the final nails. When it comes to reasons for not cutting the cord, professional sports ranks number one, and ESPN is number one in cable pro sports. Re/code is exactly on point as to how far ahead of the game this puts things.

That wasn’t supposed to happen for years, but here we are. It’s not the end of pay TV — the networks that are doing this believe they can sell this stuff on the Web without compromising their existing businesses — but it certainly could be the beginning of the end. At the very least, it’s going to be hard to roll this back.

It’s the opening of a floodgate and the waters are saturated with soon-to-be cord cutters. One wonders if Netflix’s Reed Hastings had some idea that this was coming when he predicted the death of broadcast TV in 2030, because this sets that outcome in motion as well.

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Companies: dish, espn

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Comments on “Dish/ESPN To Team Up To Finally Unleash Streaming Sports Without Cable”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s good to see this in any form, for those that like sports. I care for neither sports nor TV so this doesn’t have an effect on me personally.

Cable and pay tv has gotten too big for it’s britches. Much of that is because of broadcasters/producers like ESPN continually jacking the price. This will delay ESPN from having to face the same fate as the cable companies for a few more years before the continual jacking of prices hits them too.

Anonymous Coward says:

No NFL games

I like this idea in principal but most sports fans also watch the regional sports network in their city that covers their local teams. Most of those networks are owned or co-owned by the major US cable companies in the US and are unlikely to be part of OTT services any time soon.

The service won’t allow you to watch live NFL games on a phone because the NFL has an exclusive agreement with Verizon to be the sole provider of life NFL games on smartphones. This service also doesn’t offer local broadcast stations. NBC, CBS and FOX have the rights to the vast majority of live NFL games. If you have a TV with an antenna that’s great (or Aereo, RIP) but you can’t watch those networks on your phone with this service.

drummer315 says:

Dish Sling TV shortsighted

I also am not a big sports person and could care less about ESPN or FOX sports or any of that. I am also not a big fan of CNN.

But I would like SYFY, Discovery, BBC, Hallmark and the Anime Network. I’ll wager there are at the least a few hundreds of thousands of other Geeks who are of a similar mind. Dish keeps forgetting that most adult geeks have disposable income, usually equal to, but often greater than, the jocks.

Ninja (profile) says:

Awesome. Internet TV is the future. The next step is to turn the spectrum of the over-the-air channels into internet channels to reach those in more isolated areas and a ‘popular, free’ connection. If I were the broadcasters and cable tv companies I’d be fast into the business providing full infra to the channels and to a Netflix-like system for them.

This is exciting, maybe we’ll see the cords completely cut before 2030 after all!

art guerrilla (profile) says:

oh, hell yes...

cut the cord briefly, but SWMBO was jones-ing for some sports, so we went back to the toxic, gold-plated umbilical cord…

we are gone, baby, gone…
discussed this with her, and between OTA, Amazon crap, and sling, we are cutting the cord for good…

waiting until our new house is built to finalize the switchover, but you can color us gone, baby, gone…

i’m to the point i’d just as soon throw the teevee out the window, but i only have 50% of the vote…
(okay, realistically, less than 50%…)

Anonymous Coward says:

But wait

… the linked article says:

“What happens if people really sign up for this in big numbers? After all, the four programmers Dish has signed on for this package — Disney, Turner, Scripps and A&E — are all full-fledged members of the TV Industrial Complex and have made a very good living in the old paradigm, where people pay a bunch of money for a bunch of networks, whether or not they watch them. Wouldn’t the success of Sling TV threaten their existing business? Dish, for its part, insists that it plans to sign up “millions” of people for the new service. But sources say ESPN has a clause that gives it the ability to get out of Sling TV if the service signs up a certain number of subscribers, precisely for that reason; I’m assuming the other programmers have one as well.”

So there may be a getout if it’s too popular because that risks ‘upsetting’ the TV IC. I’d want to know about that before signing up (and we are a household who have managed somehow to live without a paid TV package for a decade). Though since I understand it’s 20/mo with no contract I suppose the max someone would be out if a favorite vanished would be 20. But, but.. We still need to know more.

Anonymous Coward says:

My question re Dish’s Sling TV (besides the obvious of whether/when Slingbox is going to sue them on the name) is whether it will be tied to Dish’s internet provider/partner in order to get the package. In my area, Dish partners with AT&T for internet, which would put me in a good spot. But if Dish partners with a different ISP (like TimeWarnerCable insisting that you *must* (in spite of evidence to the contrary) have their internet in order to use the TWC TV channel on Roku or to stream their services on a tablet or other), then I can see this as a no-go for a lot of folks.

My hope is that this service will come with few, if any, strings attached. (I can dream, can’t I?)

ThatDevilTech says:

XBMC anyone?

Anyone try using XBMC? You can watch almost any sports/PPV event, regardless of location. If it’s available online through sites like or and others, XBMC can help you watch it. There’s tons of other options too. We’ve been Dish-free for over two years and haven’t missed it. My wife and I, as well as the kids, can watch just about any current and former tv show or movie with no problems other than a slow Internet connection at times.

It has a bit of a learning curve, but check it out. You won’t regret it.

Dave (profile) says:

Sling TV (right now) is great for basketball fans.

ESPN and TNT show a ton of NBA games, including most of the playoffs. ESPN also shows a lot of college basketball, and TBS/TNT will air a huge chunk of the NCAA Tournament, including the Final this year. So if you like hoops but hate your cable company, this might work. (And there have been studies showing basketball fans skew younger than other sports, so this falls in line with Dish’s target market here.)

If you’re a hockey fan, forget it. There’s no way Dish and Comcast come to terms here, especially if Charlie Ergen gets on Capitol Hill and starts screaming about data caps being uncompetitive.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out if Sling TV is right for you:

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