Sling TV logoAt least someone believes “soon” means in about five weeks. Sling TV stopped working on Channel Master’s DVR+ around midday yesterday. As I described last month, Sling had sent out an email to subscribers on December 14 advising that “Soon, Sling TV will no longer be supported on Channel Master.” Now on the DVR+, the Sling channel still displays appropriate channel information, but any attempt to stream content fails.

Last week at CES, I had the opportunity to ask Channel Master executive vice president Joe Bingochea about Sling’s announcement. He said that it was a technical issue – Sling was changing how it streamed – and of course it wouldn’t be an issue with his company’s Stream+ Android TV receiver, currently available for pre-order.

That original Sling email promised a $10 credit for the “inconvenience,” and sure enough, it was applied on my billing cycle that began Jan. 13. The service continues to perform normally on its other devices here, including my Air TV Player, just as it did yesterday morning on my DVR+. As with so many things, it was fun while it lasted.

Two men on a stage in front of a crowded room

Ben Sherwood, right, interviewed by Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein at CES

Wednesday morning at CES, Ben Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, sounded upbeat about his division’s prospects for the coming few years. “I’ve been at this long enough to know that every decade obituaries are written about broadcast,” he said. “In my view, the sky is not falling; I think the sky is rising.”

Interviewed by Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein, Sherwood declined comment on Disney’s proposed purchase of some Fox Studio assets, though he added, “Personally, I’m extremely excited about it.”

The Disney direct-to-home streaming service won’t begin until 2019, though Sherwood said that his group was “heavily involved” in its preparation. An ESPN+ streaming service should start in Spring 2018. He said that Disney’s timeless characters and content would provide “an irresistible family service” for households and kids.

The expansion of distribution methods has fractured the audience, but viewers are watching more video than ever. “It’s a critical period, but I would say that it’s always been a critical period,” Sherwood said.

 

Snippet of the Locast channel lineupBroadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton, the hardest working man in Washington, revealed some huge news yesterday morning. A nonprofit organization has launched Locast, a service that streams 14 New York City broadcast stations, including the major networks.

David Goodfriend, chairman of the Sports Fans Coalition, told Eggerton that the group is relying on a chunk of the 1976 Copyright Act that allows non-profits to retransmit broadcast signals. It’s what allows broadcast TV translator stations to exist.

Goodfriend said, “All this does is take the nonprofit structure reflected in that statute and do the same thing that a translator does, but doing it over the internet and making sure the signal is only available in New York DMA. Broadcasters are supposed to make it available to everybody for free. You can stick an antenna out the window or you can stream on locast.org. They both have the same effect.”

Yes, similar to the situation with Didja’s commercial offerings in Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area, these stations are only available to devices that can show that they are within the New York City market, if you know what I mean.

Eggerton pointed out the parallels to Aereo and FilmOn, (and he also could have mentioned ivi.tv), commercial services that failed to sustain such rebroadcasting after getting slapped around in court. The piece of history I find a lot more interesting was prompted by Cablevision, of all people.

In late October 2010, locked in an ugly retransmission battle with the local Fox station, Cablevision issued an amazing press release (still available online) that quoted the same piece of law that Goodfriend mentioned. It wrote, “Under the clear language of this statutory exemption, a governmental entity or non-profit entity could, for the purpose of serving the public interest, retransmit the World Series free over the Internet.  With a simple antenna and Internet streaming capacity, a governmental entity or non-profit organization could do a tremendous public service and extend the reach of this broadcast programming – just as Congress intended”.

Goodfriend, who was vice president of law and public policy for Dish Network for seven years, told Eggerton that Locast was getting some initial startup funding from an unnamed “high net worth individual.” It sounds like he’s fully aware of the funding his legal team is going to need, noting “We’re going to give it a shot and we’re going to get sued.”

There is much, much more to Eggerton’s story, so you really should go read it! And I sincerely hope that Locast prevails in court so it can help our nation’s broadcast stations better fulfill their obligation to serve the public.

Pluto TV just added The Gorilla Channel to its lineup. Just in case you know someone who was looking for it.

Since I can’t add anything to that, I’ll turn my attention to CES, which had its Press Day today. For all you readers who weren’t there and have never attended this day-before ritual, check out some fresh video here. (CES posted this “B-roll” mainly for TV stations to use as background while local announcers remind viewers that it’s CES Eve, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t watch it too.)

The video accurately shows several examples of the press conferences common to Press Day. Very large companies set up in the Mandalay Bay Events Center’s cavernous ballrooms, which are then packed with reporters. They watch a stage presentation of the latest products that may come to market this year, then they either scurry back to the equally packed press room to write up something or they get in a very long line for the next press conference a few doors down. This provides helpful fodder for the Wireds and TechCrunches of the world, but it rarely addresses the needs of you, dear reader, who come here to learn more about the latest content on TV and video and occasionally new ways of watching it.

This year will be my 12th consecutive CES visit. I’ll be posting notes about it all this week, but I’m otherwise skipping Press Day.

 

It just doesn’t feel like Wednesday today, since Monday felt more like a Sunday than most Sundays do.

We now know that the New Year was not the soon event that Sling mentioned in its email three weeks ago. As of this morning, Sling still looks great on my Channel Master DVR+. Seriously, are they going to pull the plug during CES? Maybe as part of a press conference, using props?

Rex Sorgatz at Wired explained in mid-December how to be a television futurist at holiday parties, and I just now noticed it. His conclusion / punchline is close to my answer to the future of TV: Discovery and curation. Make a great UI to help viewers find happy surprises, and present them with exactly what they’ll want to watch.