Dish may debut Internet TV service this summer


Dish NetworkCharlie Ergen’s Dish Network is targeting a summer debut for its Internet TV service in the US, telling programmers, including NBCUniversal, that a late summer release date is possible. Dish already signed up Disney for the service last month. A&E Television Networks, Turner Broadcasting and CBS Corp. also have spoken with Dish about Internet-TV rights, according to a Bloomberg story.

Dish is trying to be the first to sell a full package of live-streaming channels — similar to those offered with a cable subscription — over the Web. An Internet-based TV package would give consumers a new option beyond cable, satellite and phone companies. Dish is targeting 18-34 year-olds who only want to pay $20 or $30 a month to watch video on smartphones and tablets instead of a traditional TV set.

The largest content providers have placed several conditions on Dish’s service before they’ll agree to deals, according to the story. At least two of the four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — must be included in the service, and at least 10 of the highest-rated cable networks must also be part of the package. Through its agreement with Disney, Dish has already signed up ABC, as well as cable channels ESPN and Disney Channel.

Following its agreement with Disney, Dish approached NBCU for a similar deal, according to a Bloomberg source. Because of a regulatory agreement when Comcast acquired the company from GE, NBCU has to provide comparable programming “on terms that are economically equivalent” to those of rivals.

The difficulty so far has been concluding what constitutes an equivalent agreement based on Dish’s deal with Disney. That will determine which NBCUniversal networks are included in the Internet bundle, such as NBC, USA Network, Bravo and E!.

Dish already streams bundles of international TV channels over the Internet through its DishWorld product. Most international packages are available for $14.95 a month.

The Dish product would be the first of its kind here. Intel failed to offer the service last year and sold its technology to in January. Sony Corp. is also attempting to offer so-called over-the-top TV and reached a preliminary agreement in August to stream Viacom programming, said the story.

AT&T just recently said it plans to introduce an online TV service by the end of this year, part of a pact with Chernin Group to invest more than $500 million to draw consumers who are flocking to Internet video.

See the Bloomberg story here.

RBR-TVBR observation: Dish seems to realize the importance of copyright laws here in streaming content. If it streams NBC programming, for instance, it will be paying NBC for that content—not grabbing it off the air illegally like Aereo in multiple markets. If Aereo wins the SCOTUS case, however, perhaps this deal will change before the contracts are signed. In fact, any MVPD will be wide open to do an Aereo end-run and bypass retrans. fees. But why stop there? Cable networks’ main feed is also delivered through the air—they just get the right to encrypt it. Seems broadcasters will just have to do the same thing with their local signals if they don’t end up streaming their content themselves.