Dish’s upcoming internet TV service gets A+E content, but questions remain

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Dish’s (S DISH) plans to launch an internet TV service later this year are starting to take shape: The satellite TV provider just secured rights to stream content from A+E Networks as part of a general contract renewal with the cable network. However, at this point, it’s still unclear what these rights actually encompass, and what that Dish service is eventually going to look like.

Dish announced a multi-year renewal agreement with A+E Tuesday. This means that existing Dish customers will continue to be able to watch channels like Lifetime, History, Crime + Investigation and Military History. Altogether, the bundle consists of eight channels.

Which of these networks will show up on Dish’s internet service? That’s a little less clear at this point. A joint press release from the two companies simply stated that the deal gives Dish “access to A+E Networks’ content through a future multi-stream subscription service of linear and Video-on-Demand content.” It continued:

“With this capability, the content will be available to an untapped segment of customers that is seeking a flexible, content-driven, Internet-accessible service.”

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether internet TV services from Dish and others will be able to actually offer customers anything that’s different from traditional pay TV, or whether customers will simply get the same big bundles, except streamed over the internet.

Then again, a huge bundle that’s just cable TV with a different pipe wouldn’t exactly be flexible and content-driven, would it? And if Dish was simply to sign on one cable network after another with all of their existing bundles, would it really be able to win over the cord cutters and “cord haters” that it is targeting with the service? Or would it be able to meet the $30 monthly price it is reportedly targeting?

At this point, the A+E deal does show some momentum on Dish’s side. Dish announced a similar deal with Disney earlier this year, and Sony and others trying to launch their own online TV services still haven’t been able to tell us about any content agreements. But there are also still lots of open questions.

Maybe Dish’s Charlie Ergen will use Wednesday’s earnings call to answer some of them.

Dish photo courtesy of (CC BY 2.0) Flickr user Dave Lindblom.

4 Comments

limboaz

Totally agree. The Dishworld app and interface is awful. It will be a problem if they don’t streamline it, especially the virtual DVR feature.

I would say Dish has enough to get the service off the ground. Getting Disney (including ESPN) and A&E gives an attractive lineup and meets the requirement that Disney put on to have at least one other big player before launch. Cut cutters and cord haters mostly get network TV via antenna so don’t care about local channels.
The main problem is the caps ISPs have slapped or are slapping on Internet usage. HD can use up to 3 GB per hour, so heavy users could conceivably gobble up 1 TB/month or more per month.

Shenan

I hope that they make the new service work better than Dishworld. I’ve been a subscriber of that for a few months, and there are a few problems (random order):

1. Weird interface. Just non-standard in both appearance and the buttons it uses on the Roku remote. It’s a bit difficult for us to navigate the thing.

2. Time slots of the on-demand shows (up to 7 days in the past?) are off. For instance, you choose to watch a show that aired yesterday, and it doesn’t start at the beginning of the show, but instead it starts either minutes into the show, or minutes before the show.

3. Inconsistent video formats. Some channels are full HD 16×9, taking up the whole screen (great). Some channels are SD 16×9, but still take up the whole screen, formatted properly (fine). Some channels are SD 4×3, taking the full vertical space on the screen, with bars on the side, formatted properly (no problem). Some channels are SD 16×9, but reduced on the screen, with black space all around – top, bottom, and sides (not great). Some channels are SD 16×9 squashed vertically, formatted improperly, so that the picture fills the screen horizontally, but has black bars on top and bottom. Everything is squashed and wider than normal (terrible).

Before you ask, the problem is not with my TV or Roku settings. I’ve tried every possible setting, to no avail. I’ve also spoken to them and they were no help. The rep saw the same problem with the squashed picture on his screen and said that they were working on fixing it, but it’s been months now, with no fix.

It’s unbelievable how much the transition to HD messed up picture consistency, and how it persists, so many years down the line. The formatting problems that I describe above are by no means exclusive to Dishworld. I see it all the time on satellite, over the air broadcast, etc, and it makes me want to throw something through the screen. I wish that HDTV manufacturers would include a simple button on the TV remove to override ALL possible screen formats into any other format. Perhaps all this could be a subject of a future story here.

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