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DishTV's New Service Targets Cable Cord Cutters


The satellite TV provider DISH hopes this will get the attention of younger viewers - an Internet-based, TV subscription package. DISH calls it Sling TV. It will give subscribers about a dozen live channels, including sports coverage from ESPN and ESPN2. It'll also include channels like The Food Network, ABC Family and CNN. The cost - $20 a month. NPR's David Folkenflik says the creation of Sling TV moves the industry closer to the day when viewers can pick and choose what they pay for. And he joins us now from our studio in New York. David, this seems pretty close to a la carte viewing. Is this what cord cutters have been waiting for?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: It gets us a lot farther down the road in that direction, surely. You know, in addition to the channels you mentioned, there's HGTV, Cartoon Network. But ESPN, as you mentioned, probably by far the most important of all. It's been crushing in ratings in many ways. It's the top rated channel on cable television and had record, record cable ratings for recent college bowl games, proving the recent truths that live sport really is the best driver of audiences these days. But right now, you're seeing this interesting kind of informal coalition between certain lawmakers on Capitol Hill who help to regulate telecommunications and media industries between - and young folks who just aren't inclined to pay for these enormous bundles. You know, my cable bill is about - over a hundred bucks a month and it includes broadband Internet and - as well as cable TV and premium channels and the like. And people are saying why are we paying for everything that is offered rather than for the things that we want most? HBO and ESPN are making moves to offer their own streaming, just singular digital services. And now DISH is saying we want to play in that world as well.

SIEGEL: ESPN's owned by ABC, isn't it? What does this say about the industry?

FOLKENFLIK: Right, ESPN is part of Disney. And you're seeing a number of the channels being offered by Sling are part of Time Warner, the large entertainment media conglomerate. What you're seeing are a lot of these companies looking at a somewhat uncertain future. Cable is expanding into broadband service. You know, the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, these two giants, that's been proposed and is under consideration in Washington is really driven about the desire to dominate broadband Internet service provision rather than simply television. And you're seeing a lot of folks who offer streaming digital services like a Hulu, like Netflix, like the Amazon Prime service offered to customers there. They're creating original content as well, in a sense, serving as an entertainment bypass to these major pricey big-ticket cable packages. So you're seeing a world in which people at DISH are saying we have to embrace this and they see it as complementary, that is, they don't think their satellite subscribers are going to pay for it. They look at audiences that have been turned off by the big pay ticker there and say we're going to get some additional people we might otherwise not get at all.

SIEGEL: There's another sign of change is afoot in the business that I want to ask you about. The cable channel CNBC announced today that it's dropping the Nielsen ratings. It's not exactly a star in the Nielsen ratings, we should note, but what's at stake there?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, look, its ratings have dragged, but in terms of cable financial television, it does quite well, it really dominates it. What it is doing is part of this overall story that we're seeing, which is that people are struggling with how to measure impact, how to measure audience, how to measure significance and how to spin that story for people who advertise or pay for those services. This is another example, as CNBC says, that much of its audience in the daytime isn't being measured. I think you're going to see more and more of that as time goes on.

SIEGEL: OK, thank you, David.


SIEGEL: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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