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Streaming TV Bundle on Tap for Non-Sports Fans

13 Sep, 2017 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – Discovery, Viacom, A+E Networks, AMC Networks, and Scripps are partnering to offer a new streaming service for viewers tired of paying for TV sports channels they don’t watch.

The offering is expected to have a “soft launch” in the coming weeks, according a report in The Wall Street Journal. Programming will be primarily nonfiction and lifestyle, along with children’s fare and scripted dramas for less than $20 a month.

The exact list and number of networks to be carried isn’t clear, though the media companies say they expect that all of their core channels will be included. Discovery owns ID, TLC, and Animal Planet, among others. Scripps, which Discovery is in the process of acquiring, is the parent of such channels as HGTV and Food Network. Viacom’s list includes Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, and BET, while AMC and A+E each have their own suites of networks.

WSJ reports that several high-profile entertainment programming options aren’t part of the mix and, to get them, cord cutters will need an antenna to get broadcast signals from ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, and perhaps a subscription to another web-TV bundle for additional channels.

The new service will be powered by Philo, a company that specializes in streaming TV for college campuses and will also be branded “Philo.” (The name refers to Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the first all-electronic TV system.)

It will start out as a direct-to-consumer streaming service, but the goal is to eventually get established pay-TV providers to offer similar packages. Analysts say that could take some negotiating with cable and satellite providers as TV programmers’ contracts come up for renewal. Pay-TV providers will have to account for agreements they have with certain media companies, such as Disney and Time Warner, requiring that certain channels are available to a large percentage of the subscriber base, making it difficult to exclude them from packages.

Bloomberg reported in April that media companies were in talks with pay-TV distributors to create online TV services for consumers who don’t want to pay for sports.

Amol Sharma, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, says it makes sense for the media companies to band together to offer streaming-TV bundles. “The streaming marketplace is buzzing with new services from the likes of YouTube and Hulu offering packages of channels for $40 a month or less,” Sharma writes. “But not all networks are being carried in these ‘skinny’ bundles, posing a risk for the ones that are left out. Some of the companies planning the non-sports bundle have been left out of the skinny bundles.”

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