No CBS On Sling TV – So What?

Sling TV iconWhen Dish (probably) caved in late Thursday and signed a retransmission consent deal with CBS, that was as unexpected as a turkey sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving. It was never a matter of whether the two sides (mostly Dish) would give in, it was when.

So I was a little surprised to get settled in on Cyber Monday and see pundits still picking at the bones of this non-story. Daniel Frankel of FierceCable and Jon Lafayette of Multichannel News both noticed the same thing: CBS and its networks were still missing from Dish’s Sling TV despite the new contract. It might be a coastal bias, but they just don’t get it.

Despite occasional brave noises, Sling TV doesn’t carry any English-language affiliates in most of its subscribers’ markets. As Frankel himself wrote in January, “Sling TV has pointedly noted that its service is not a replacement for traditional pay-TV.” Exactly! By keeping its price very low, Sling has become the supplement for some otherwise-OTA cord-cutters. If they want a local station, they’ll pick it up over-the-air for free. If they want to watch the latest South Park, which they can’t pick up with their antennas, they’ll flip over to Comedy Central on Sling. In that context, it makes no sense for Sling to pay for CBS or any other OTA network.

On the other hand, Frankel ended his latest Sling story by writing, “Dish is expected to include Sling TV rights in its next program licensing agreement with CBS Corp.” So if those networks weren’t bundled with the CBS retransmission deal, those would be candidates for Sling to pick up. I could easily see CBS Sports added to Sling’s Sports Extra add-on, and Pop and Smithsonian could work in Comedy or Lifestyle. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.