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.

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  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:23am

    Typo?

    Dish had to promise ABC that it would disable ad-skipping for some CBS content on Hopper to secure licensing rights.

    Wait, why does ABC care about ad-skipping of CBS content?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JEDIDIAH, 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:25am

    Close but not quite.

    Anything that includes force-fed ads is still a non-starter. That's just rolling the clock back to the pre-Tivo era.

    Streaming has the potential to actually REDUCE the level of control the consumer has over content. It's all a matter of how content providers choose to deliver it. It's not a foregone conclusion that the new service is an improvement.

    Plus ESPN is still force bundled with other things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:32am

    Re: Typo?

    All things being equal, which would you rather watch, a channel that you can skip ads on, or one on which you could not?

    It's simply a way to cripple the competition, I expect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 13 Jan 2015 @ 12:35pm

      Re: Re: Typo?

      That depends. Am I paying $100 a month or $20?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 2:28pm

        Re: Re: Re: Typo?

        I don't think it matters! You pay for on demand services yet are still required to sit through ads (though you can fast forward through the show you want to see no problem...yeah, you can fast forward over their precious, precious IP but NOT THE ADS - THOU SHALT PAY EXTRA FOR ON DEMAND AND WATCH ADS SO IT IS WRITTEN!)...

        Sorry, I got mad.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:50am

    "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"

    Actually this was in discussion on a list of smaller ISPs, actually WISPa to be specific. It seems as though Dish is talking to providers about distribution deals through smaller regional ISPs. Possibly a smart move by Dish to fend off future law suits with anti-competitive motions...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 12:18pm

    this is the sort of thing that small minded individuals do, just to try to keep in control of something they think is theirs and only theirs! much like Hollywood and the entertainment industries really! they pull whatever shit trick they can think up in the hope of doing maximum damage to 'the competition', then to make matters a million times worse, along comes members of or the whole lot of the mindless idiots in Congress who, after being thrown a few thousand bucks, do what they are best at, fucking things up good and proper, and all done so as to be able to NOT progress into the digital age!! unbelievable!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 12:24pm

    I'll stick with not giving the cable (television) companies any of my money, thanks.
    It's not piracy, it's abstinence.
    #notyourpirate

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim, 13 Jan 2015 @ 12:42pm

    Not quite there yet...

    This service still doesn't appeal to me yet, also. There's still too many (as in > 0) reality show channels, there's not enough features (like ad-skipping), and there's no via-satellite option (though that might be an esoteric wish). The introduction of ESPN is an interesting development, showing that the channel providers are seeing the writing on the wall.

    Overall though, it's not just that cable bundling is dying and that people want choice via their Internet connection. Ultimately this story is one thing: people are going to pay less for their entertainment and the entertainment and sports industries are going to have to learn to live with less.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 1:10pm

    Dish doesn't violate copyright at all.

    Dish receives the broadcast as intended from the content provider.
    Dish adds whatever ads they've contracted to add.
    Dish broadcasts the complete content, advertisements included.
    Dish subscriber records the entire content, advertisements included.

    Dish DVR asks the customers if they'd like to skip over the commercials.

    Dish DVR customer determines whether they want to or not, and the DVR does what the customer wants with their private personal recordings of the content.

    How is this in any way, shape or form violating anything.

    It's the same as people have done for decades with VCRs and other PVR technology, albeit, slightly better.

    We had to press "skip ahead" or "Fast-forward" to flash through the advertisements, which we laboriously did.

    Now, here's Dish with something that makes our lives better and easier, automating that manual process, but still, completely under our control.

    WTF CBS? WTF ABC? WTF FOX?

    Get over yourselves - your product ain't that great to start with, then you f with our controls on what we do with it once we've recorded it?

    I'm glad Dish stood up to Fox regarding Fox's attempt to steal more money from dish customers for their crappy news product. I don't miss Fox News at all, and hope it never comes back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 2:32pm

      Re: Dish doesn't violate copyright at all.

      Isn't that pretty much what Aero did?

      Gah, except for the ad skipping?

      *scrabbles for crazy pills*

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 6:10pm

      Re: Dish doesn't violate copyright at all.

      How is this in any way, shape or form violating anything.

      It isn't. But back at step 1, the content providers are refusing to license the content unless Dish agrees to disable ad skipping.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Sep 2015 @ 2:39pm

      Re: Dish doesn't violate copyright at all.

      I didnt even realize fox news was gone!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 1:32pm

    Make a competing product!

    The broadcasters should make a competing product rather than crying like little babies because their gravy train has run out of steam.

    If I had a-la-carte cable channel selection AND the option to pay extra money per channel to have NO COMMERCIALS They would be getting my money no problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 2:32pm

    Again what might have changed my mind has instead reinforced that I will not be a customer of Sling. If I am paying for a service, then I am financing in part the broadcast. One thing I will not compromise on with that is watching commercials on my dime.

    So instead of maybe being a customer this is a deal breaker in no uncertain terms. Instead I will continue as I have for many years with no tv service at all and have become accustom to that. That means all the broadcast services will reach me with no commercials.

    This is what I demand and will accept nothing less on. The cord was cut long ago and it will remain that way. I see no value in outrageously expensive poor programming. I do not look forward to another rerun, another reality show, nor another ripoff of some idea that passed through in movies.

    Nothing in this article convinces me to change my mind in that choice but rather reinforces the continued abstinence is a good decision.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 4:09pm

    My Tivo's Placeshifting Gotchas

    Tivo announced built-in anywhere viewing with the Roamio product:

    http://pr.tivo.com/press-releases/roam-free-baby-nasdaq-tivo-1062178

    That sounded great to me. I could be rid of my trusty Slingbox, and the added complexity. But every time I've tried to use the Tivo streaming functionality, I've found a DRM douchebaggy impediment. Here's a list of what I've found.

    1 Did not work with my Android, only worked with Apple. OK, Android was added later.

    2 Would not work on my wife's iPhone on AT&t, only over WiFi.

    3 Would not work on my Android phone, because phone was previously rooted.

    4 Does not work out of country. (OK, pretty common restriction, but that's over half of my use cases, and my Slingbox does it fine.)

    In all, it fails in just about each of my family's usage scenarios. So, thus far, I am pretty much f@#$d, so I have only used it in my home over the LAN. Yay! TV content I bought in my very own home! I re-installed my Slingbox.

    It seems like Tivo worked very hard to make sure I could not use the place shifting feature. And succeeded.

    Now, tech is hard enough to get to work when everybody is trying to make it work. When certain switches and gates are put in, with the express purpose of making the tech NOT work, well, chances are the content will not flow, both from the gates working as planned, and also from random false positives or other glitches.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 7:15pm

    Is this basically a Sling Box (which has been around since the late 2000s) built into the Dish DVR, or does it have additional capabilities?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Name, 13 Jan 2015 @ 7:27pm

    It always starts out well....and then....

    They get you. I've been around the block a few times. Grew up watching black and white television, and now it's 2015. I remember when cable didn't have ads. Look what we have now.

    It may only be twenty bucks right now, they they don't have nearly as many channels as cable. If they add more channels guess what? That's right my friend! The price just went up. Soon you will pay as much as cable is today. And eventually they'll all start arguing about the same stuff as they are today-money. Price just went up again. And guess what now? TNT or ESPN just got dropped from the line-up.

    The article in the link here:

    http://www.engadget.com/2015/01/05/sling-tv-announced/

    states ""On Now" on the different networks, letting you pick whether to "Watch Now" or "Start Over," both features being self-explanatory, although "Start Over" does depend on the content rights for each network."

    I don't pay for cable anymore. However, I DO pay for internet. And I can get the same content AND more, and I'm paying eighty bucks a month for it. And when I pay more than twenty or whatever it will EVENTUALLY go up to, and I can do the same things they are spouting, i.e., "Watch Now" or "Start Over", AND I can watch them without ads WTH would I want that product for?

    But I guess all of this is a moot point. We have caps on our internet. Basically, if this happens it move move cable television to the internet.

    And somebody has to get paid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 7:39pm

    Re: It always starts out well....and then....

    Think of the kids. What happens to infomercials?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 14 Jan 2015 @ 1:34am

    Regardless of how much they kick and scream the world will shift to the next internet TV stage. From my experience many of the people I know are going Netflix (or similar) and adopting the stance "If it's not there then it doesn't exist" or even better "If it's not there I'll pirate if it seems worth the effort or GO WITHOUT".

    Exciting times ahead, I hope the MAFIAA goes belly up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ron, 14 Jan 2015 @ 12:37pm

    Dish CAN be stopped!! It's easy!

    All time warner and other ISPs have to do it start capping customers. Some already do. But don't cap the customers that have a bundle ala cable and Internet. If you just have Internet and only Internet then the provider can cap you at 50gb per month. That will stop slingtv before it happens. Ala carte tv might never happen. But this is the closet thing to it. $20 a month for 12 channels with ESPN and cnn being the esstenials and ad on packs for only $5. History,h2, smithsonian and discovery for $5 a month? Wow.
    Slingtv and HBO's own live streaming service will kill the cable companies unless the capping begins. Netflix, Amazon and even Hulu subscribers will turn to Slingtv and HBO and a good ol antenna and look it's only $35 a month as opposed to paying $90 a month without HBO. I only have cable for ESPN,CNN and Disney. So now I can get them all for $20 and I can kill cable. When I cancel cable my monthly bill will be $55 a month just for Internet. So let's add this up, Internet $55, slingtv with an add on $25, HBO's streaming service $12 and a antenna FREE, total cost =$92 a month. My current bundle is $170. So I'll take the $92 any day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 14 Jan 2015 @ 12:57pm

      Re: Dish CAN be stopped!! It's easy!

      "If you just have Internet and only Internet then the provider can cap you at 50gb per month."

      Or just do what Comcast does: charge you more for internet-only service than for internet+cable TV. But that would be less evil than usage caps, so would be less appealing to the cable companies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 14 Jan 2015 @ 1:00pm

      Re: Dish CAN be stopped!! It's easy!

      All time warner and other ISPs have to do it start capping customers. Some already do. But don't cap the customers that have a bundle ala cable and Internet. If you just have Internet and only Internet then the provider can cap you at 50gb per month.

      Just one more reason we need lots of competition in broadband internet service.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Herbert Groberman, 8 Mar 2015 @ 8:47am

    Language

    I would really appreciate it if you could please tell me, how the TV viewers can at once put a stop to most all TV commentators from using the word time after time the word, CRAP! It does not sound nice,in fact in my opinion it sounds like a swear word.I am very sure that most of your younger viewers & even most of all TV viewers do not appreciate this word.It seems to me that your TV broadcast commentators do not realize how bad the word sounds. So please some way stop the word CRAP from being used! Thank You & please respond to me as soon as possible. Thank You- herby2@rogers.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Herbert Groberman, 8 Mar 2015 @ 8:55am

    Techdirt Account

    Please register me for a Techdirt Account

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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