Cord-cutting just got a little better with today’s annnouncement that Sling TV will offer a plan that lets you stream to more than one TV. Sling TV is a streaming product aimed at budget-minded cord-cutters that offers live content from local affiliates (in many markets) plus a small selection of the most popular “basic” channels at an all-in-one price of $20 per month. Prior to today, that $20 per month price allowed you to stream to one TV at a time but with a new service, users will be able to stream to up to three devices, for the same low price of $20 per month.
There’s just one small catch.
The 3-screen option leaves you without ESPN, which confirms industry rumors that it was Disney (parent of ESPN) holding up a truly multi-screen experience. For years now, ESPN has been the most expensive of the “basic” channels and it seems to be DIsney’s extremely conservative viewpoint on streaming that’s held up a lot of the advances in mobile technology. This is certainly true from the point of view of cable and satellite providers who have fought hard to include streaming in their packages. It’s not that Disney’s negotiators are impossible to work with (as I understand it, they’re actually fairly nice folks) but the company itself demands exorbitant prices for ESPN and other sports properties.
It seems clear that the pay-TV industry, whether we’re talking about the “traditional” players like DIRECTV and Comcast or the “new kids” like Netflix and Hulu, is headed toward a showdown with sports programming. You’re seeing it with the way DIRECTV and other providers have all but shut down Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet LA channel and you’re certainly seeing it all across the country as people flock to streaming plans like MLB.TV, and in the NFL’s recent partnership with Twitter for Thursday Night Football. At some point, there needs to be a real understanding of just what sports programming is worth, and more importantly, who is willing to pay for it. It’s clear that a lot of sports is just plain overpriced.
Of course, that’s neither here nor there for people looking for a rock-solid “basic cable” experience over connected devices. Sling TV is a great complement for people looking to add a channel like HGTV to the mix of programs they get over the air. For people like that, the point is low price, not high features, and certainly there’s a low price there. Sling TV has developed into a very mature platform with limited DVR functionality and on demand, as well as the most popular national channels. Now, you’re no longer limited to a single device, as long as you’re willing to give up ESPN. If you’re not, the single-device plan is still available at $20 per month.