CES 2015

Dish launches Sling Television over-the-Internet TV service

The satellite television provider plans to compete with cable, using the industry’s very own broadband infrastructure

Published: January 05, 2015 06:00 PM

Dish has a history of pushing the entertainment industry’s buttons. The company launched its commercial-skipping Hopper set-top box back in 2012, and was promptly sued by most of the major broadcast networks. Today, Dish announced an over-the-Internet live TV offering known as Sling Television (using the name of Dish’s Sling subsidiary). According to the company, the service is squarely aimed at millennials, a demographic that Dish has had a hard time reaching with its satellite service. The Sling TV service will work on Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, as well as on the Xbox One and smart TVs from Samsung and LG.

When the service launches, later this month, Sling TV promises to be a minimalist offering—the $20 per month starter package will include channels such as ESPN, the Disney Channel, HGTV, TNT, CNN, ABC Family, and TBS, with add-on kids' and news packages costing an extra $5 per month a piece. Notably missing are premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, as well as broadcast networks ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. (However, with HBO’s recent announcement that it would launch an over-the-Internet service of its own in 2015, some consumers may choose to piece together a reasonable approximation of a cable package using a patchwork of services such as those from Dish and HBO, along with an over-the-air antenna.)

The Dish announcement won't affect just its own customers. It's likely to force the network neutrality debate into a confrontational stage. Since the broadband service required to stream Sling TV is largely owned by cable companies in the U.S., Dish is now proposing to sell TV packages that directly compete with cable offerings using the infrastructure of the cable companies themselves. That's got to be galling.

We cornered Dish CEO Joseph Clayton and asked him if he thought the first lawsuits would come from the cable companies, or Dish itself. “We get sued all the time,” he said nonchalantly. “If we don’t stand up for the rights of consumers, who will?” We asked what Dish would do if cable companies started throttling its service and Clayton answered with a patriotic dodge. “There would be a revolt in the U.S.,” he said. “Consumers would revolt and I don’t think Congress would allow it.”

That may be an optimistic view of the U.S. Congress, but one thing is virtually guaranteed. Sling TV will raise the temperature in the net neutrality debate.

—Glenn Derene

Click on the image above to find all of Consumer Reports' coverage from CES 2015.

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