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!

Lool IPTV box with antennas

The “2017 LOOL Arabic Gold IPTV Box,” as currently advertised on eBay

Dish Network and NagraStar shut down a different kind of pirate this week. According to Advanced Television, the two won a court order against Lool Tech Co. and a partner over the Lool IPTV box, which streamed mostly Arabic channels.

Dish and Nagra had been on a tear, picking off distributors and even end users of the NFPS IKS service, which streamed pay-TV channels that apparently originated from Dish. But Lool looks like it’s different. Lool boasts over 700 Arabic channels, which is more than Dish handles, so at least some of them must be from other sources. The Advanced Television story mentioned instead that “the Lool defendants retransmitted channels in which DISH holds exclusive rights”.

This reminds me a lot more of our dear departed NimbleTV, which was built with the goal of facilitating overseas pay-TV subscriptions to be viewed in the US. Every channel was paid for by the US subscriber, but Dish really didn’t like it, and Nimble soon shut down. Dish has the US rights to certain foreign channels, so there’s no good way to provide them otherwise.

There are still web sites such as wwiTV.com that provide links to hundreds of IP-delivered channels, originating all over the world. I guess it’s when you build them into a box or sell them as a service that Dish thinks you’ve gone too far.

According to an article in Bloomberg today, the “live and on demand video news network” Cheddar plans to give away small over-the-air UHF antennas. Cheddar is renting broadcast space from DTV America in five markets and will partner with advertiser Dunkin Donuts to give away antennas in those markets.

Jon Steinberg, founder of Cheddar, said that the number of broadcast-only homes is rising. “Anywhere we can provide a stream that replicates that cable news viewing experience is where we’re going to be,” he said.

Cheddar’s eight-hour programming day is available on Sling TV and as a separate app. “It also has a second feed — two to three hours a day of original content plus archived programming — that’s carried on Facebook and will air on the broadcast stations.”

It’s great to see another entry into the universe of digital sub-channels. I hope that more OTA choices will lead to more OTA viewers, which then lead to more OTA choices.