Broadcasters Working Hard To Cripple Dish's Consumer Friendly Sling TV
from the get-the-hell-out-of-the-way dept
You might recall that two years ago just around this time Dish technically won the CNET best of CES award for its Hopper auto-ad-skipping DVR technology, but CNET owner CBS trampled its own editorial policies by not only telling CNET to pull the award from Dish, but also banning CNET from writing reviews about the product. The excuse CBS gave was that CBS and Dish were involved in ongoing litigation over whether ad-skipping violated copyright, though of course the real reason was that CBS simply didn’t want Dish’s consumer-friendly product getting any more media attention than was absolutely necessary.
After the rather ridiculous fiasco, CNET reporters resigned and CEA took the “best of CES” honors away from CNET and gave them to Engadget. Fast forward a few years and Engadget has brought things full circle, this year awarding Dish’s new $20 Sling TV service with the best home theater product award, best software/app award, and best of CES overall award. With perhaps an extra dash of hyperbole, Engadget declares Sling TV to be the beginning of the end for traditional television:
“Many of us have been waiting, hoping and even lusting after Sling TV before we’d ever heard of it: an internet TV service that gives you the channels you love, on any screen, anywhere, without a subscription to traditional cable or satellite TV service. Our long wait finally, blessedly ended at CES 2015. Sling (don’t call it Dish) TV is a big deal, folks. It could very well be the beginning of the end for traditional pay TV here in the US, and that’s not something I ever thought possible before this week. That, friends, is why Sling TV is taking home three Best of CES awards, including Best in Show.”
That’s probably overdoing it. While we noted that the service is a big deal because it finally breaks ESPN out of the traditional cable bundle, the lack of live broadcaster channels (for now), the inability to record programs, and the scattershot content catalog don’t quite make this a cable TV killer yet — though it’s at least a step in the right direction (2015 looks to be the year streaming video finally leaves the cradle). Of course, like Dish’s Hopper DVR, Sling TV very nearly didn’t exist, and it came only after Dish was willing to give more than its pound of flesh to change-averse broadcasters.
Dish had to promise ABC that it would disable ad-skipping for some ABC content on Hopper to secure licensing rights. CBS (busy cooking up a $7 a month streaming service of its own) then proceeded to make it clear Dish would have to jump through even more hoops if it wanted similar deals (which haven’t been struck yet). Apparently Dish’s contract language with broadcasters also includes a clause whereby the satellite provider has to stop advertising the service if it reaches five million viewers, since you certainly wouldn’t want a streaming television offering to get too popular and disrupt the cozy cable and broadcast status quo.
And those are only the contract restrictions we know of. Again, ad skipping and streaming TV aren’t really all that innovative anymore — but they are in an industry that fights tooth and nail against a litany of common-sense things consumers want (greater freedom in channel selection, fewer ads, prices that don’t skyrocket at four times the rate of inflation). And Dish’s uphill fight likely isn’t over yet; should the service see any kind of traction you can be sure the cable companies and ISP will come crawling out of the woodwork, demanding the same kind of interconnection deals they struck with Netflix should Dish want its traffic to continue flowing unhindered.
So forget about the best of CES award, we really should be doling out an annual “I ran the gauntlet of protectionist legacy jackasses and still managed to somehow release a consumer-friendly product” award.