The big news today is the rollout of Philo, a streaming TV service bundling 37 channels for $16/month or 46 for $20/month. Several reports on the new service point out that it has no sports channels and is therefore targeted to viewers who don’t care about sports.

That certainly is a skinny bundle, so skinny that it’s missing plenty besides sports. As Alex Weprin wrote at MediaPost, “Philo will not have programming from NBCUniversal, Disney, CBS, Turner or Fox, … in part because of their extensive sports programming.” So the premium Turner demands for baseball coverage on TBS meant that Philo couldn’t include CNN or Turner Classic Movies? FS1’s price meant no Fox News or FX?

It’s a truism that every person has favorite channels and thinks that the others are trash, but just look at that lineup. Will BBC World News and Cheddar provide enough news? Are there enough movies in that mix? Compare it to Sling Orange for $20/month including commercial-free movies, more news channels, and plenty of sports that you are free to ignore.

Philo reminds me of Pluto TV, not just because the names are similar. Both offer a few dozen ad-supported entertainment channels, and both are free to watch for the first week. The difference, after that first week, is $16/month. I just don’t see Philo’s appeal at all.

Bay Area BTV screen capture with program guide

The Bay Area BTV user interface. (Click to enlarge.)

Didja, the company behind Phoenix BTV and Bay Area BTV, recently dropped three Katz Broadcasting diginets from both services. Bounce, Escape, and Grit had been part of both lineups at their launches but are now gone or inactive.

In an email sent to Phoenix subscribers Friday afternoon, Didja announced that it had added the Charge! diginet but “Unfortunately, we are temporarily unable to provide Grit, Escape and Bounce on (sic) PhoneixBTV. We hope to bring you these channels again soon. In the meantime, if you are a fan of these channels, send us (an email) and let us know!”

Subscribers who click the grayed Bounce listings on the program guide see the message: “Bounce is not currently available on PhoenixBTV. If you’re a fan of Bounce and would like to see it return, please let us know at …” Which sounds like a trial balloon to see whether regaining Katz’s content would be worth whatever that would cost.

At Bay Area BTV, those three channels are simply gone, as if they had never been there. That service has a wider variety of channels still available and different DVR pricing; it seems likely that Didja is trying different experiments in different markets.

Jeff Baumgartner wrote last month, “Didja’s service carries only the broadcast networks via its OTT service that have offered consent, and access to those lineups are limited to the consumers if they are currently in the local area.” (Or if they know how to pretend to be in the local area.) Didja’s CEO hopes to eventually offer a lineup of 60-70 channels per market including the major networks. That’s going to take a lot of paid additions, and at the moment, Didja might be going in the other direction.

 

As FCC Chairman Ajit Pai works tirelessly to improve the lives of Comcast and Sinclair shareholders everywhere, here are a few of the latest details.

First John Eggerton wrote about the FCC in court defending its reinstatement of the UHF discount. It used to be a holdover from analog TV days when a UHF station had more limited reach and was more difficult to find on the dial compared to VHF stations. Then a few years ago the FCC noticed that’s not how digital TV works so it eliminated that holdover. But reinstating it would help really large TV station ownership groups become even larger, so that’s what Pai’s FCC did. That decision is being fought in court by Free Press, Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Prometheus Radio Project, Media Mobilizing Project, Media Alliance, National Hispanic, Media Coalition, and Common Cause.

Later that day Eggerton wrote about FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s new Twitter campaign to register her concerns with the ATSC 3.0 rollout framework that the FCC is planning to vote on next week. The tweet he quoted mentioned the lack of backward compatibility with current TV sets. “Remember when I asked as part of #NextGenTV NPRM that there be complete assurances that #consumers will not be burdened w/ unwanted, unexpected costs? Not looking good despite nxt week’s @FCC action.”

And barely a half hour later, Eggerton was back again, this time about how self-described limited government group Alliance for Freedom was joining the NAACP, Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Free Press, and Public Knowledge in objecting to the FCC’s plan to cap Lifeline subsidies for telephone and internet service, saying it “will gut the program and continue to widen the digital divide.” Now maybe you’ll believe me every time I say that John Eggerton is the hardest working man in Washington.

Dish Network $9 per month offer

The “I Like 9” promotion that got me to give Dish Network a try.

Sling TV has been around since January 2015, and I’ve been a subscriber almost from the day I saw it launched at CES. As good as it was then, it continues to add new channels and options. I was reminded of that yesterday when Sling added NBC’s Olympic Channel to its Sports Extra package. And that’s when it hit me – my experience with Sling now matches my first years as a Dish Network subscriber starting in 2001.

Back then, I was lured by the low price of just $9 a month for America’s Top 100, although I paid an extra $10 to reach the next tier. The package didn’t include local channels, but I could kludge together an over-the-air antenna that straddled the dish with a special splitter to pipe the signals from my roof.

A special monthly treat was the Charlie Chat featuring the folksy persona of CEO Charlie Ergen. In those first years, Ergen would frequently announce the addition of what the business called a “digital cable” channel, something of such narrow interest that it couldn’t break into the standard 36-channel analog cable lineup. There were VH1 Classic, Nick Games and Sports, Tech TV, and so many more.

Now I feel the same about Sling. Just like those early days of Dish, it doesn’t have most of my locals, but I’m used to getting them elsewhere. The price is just as cheap, relatively speaking. It carries some funky channels such as Cheddar, Stadium, and Tribeca Shortlist that aren’t available on Dish. And the What’s On Sling blog is the modern version of the Charlie Chat, dispensing highlights, free previews, and channel announcements.

Dish has done pretty well for itself for quite a while. I hope that Sling shows similar staying power.

 

Sling TV has added Samsung smart TVs to its list of supported devices. Jeff Baumgartner writes that it’s available now on all 2016 Samsung smart TV models, and will reach other Samsung models later. Sling is now available on LG connected TVs, Android TV devices (including the Dish-made AirTV Player), Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, some web browsers, the DVR+, and iOS and Android mobile devices. I’m still waiting for Sling to be available on Linux, a natural OS for cord-cutters.

John Eggerton, the hardest working man in Washington, writes that more strange bedfellows have come together to fight the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger. Those new members are the United Church of Christ, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians – Communications Workers of America, the Parents Television Council, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Herndon-Reston Indivisible, and the Leased Access Programmers Association. It seems that there are plenty of reasons to not like the deal, and each organization only needs one. For more on the latest, you should go read it!