NimbleTV pulling the plug

hand holding electrical plug for TV set

© / Naypong

Just got back from the International CES in Las Vegas, where Dish Network unveiled Sling TV, an online-only set of pay-TV channels for $20/month. (I’ll write more about Sling TV later, meanwhile you can read more here.) I just knew something like this was coming, and I wondered what it would mean for my old friend NimbleTV, which sells online-only sets of pay-TV channels that it somehow receives from Dish. Yesterday, the other shoe dropped.

My NimbleTV “concierge” sent me a subscriber-only email announcing that beginning Monday, January 12, I will “not be able to access (my) account or recordings.” The email never mentions Dish or Sling, but claims that “we’ve decided to pause the NimbleTV service as it stands today so we can concentrate on developing something even better and more amazing than before.”

It’s been over a year since Dish blocked NimbleTV’s access for a few weeks before NimbleTV restored its service with new parameters. Since then, a Dish representative once characterized NimbleTV as “illegal,” but it has managed to continue operating without further interruption. Yesterday’s email signals the end of all that, unless and until NimbleTV relaunches its “new and improved service later this year.”

My uninformed guess about their relationship had been that Dish wasn’t excited about NimbleTV’s existence, but was willing to accept full-price monthly fees from its subscribers. (A full-blown fight or any serious complaining would have only led to the Streisand Effect of publicizing such a rogue.) That benign neglect ended the minute that Sling TV began offering a similar service. Sling TV is still in invitation-only beta, so the cutoff doesn’t have to be as abrupt as last time, but that reluctant partnership has to end, at least according to my unsubstantiated theory.

I don’t expect NimbleTV to return as anything like it was unless, as reported, the FCC reclassifies “multichannel video programming distributor” to include internet-only services. Absent that intervention, I don’t think that any streaming service will ever be able to do anything that content creators don’t want it to do, at least not for long. NimbleTV bent over backwards to ensure that creators were paid for what they provided, but it’s still drifting toward the failed experiment graveyard with, Aereo, and FilmOn’s US over-the-air channels. It was great while it lasted, but for now, it’s over.