A wall of multi-colored sticky notesI got MLB.TV’s annual pitch in my email yesterday. For $116 (up from $113 last year), it’ll provide access to over 2000 live games spread out over seven months, plus condensed replays, full access to the mobile app, and probably more. If you’re a cord-cutter who loves baseball, that’s a sweet deal. On the other hand, if you tough it out, the price for the partial season always drops. Based on past seasons, I expect a large discount (of 30%+) in May, then a half-off offer, eventually winding all the way down to about $5 for September’s pennant race. Last year, I caught a flash sale at the end of June, getting the second half of the season for $10. Your mileage will vary.

Remember when Sling TV told me that it was going to leave Channel Master‘s DVR+ “soon”? Do you also remember that a couple of weeks later, during an all-day outage, I was convinced that it was gone for good? It returned the next day, and now it’s been eight weeks since that initial announcement; Sling still works on my DVR+. (On the other hand, the DVR+ appears to be gone from Channel Master’s web site, though its accessories are still available.) This week, I got a fun email from CM that said in effect, “If you thought you would receive your Stream+ receiver by the end of January, well, it’s February now. We’ll get it to you ASAP.” No problem, I still look forward to it. And about Sling, since conspiracies make better stories than coincidences, my guess is that Sling’s eventual departure from my DVR+ will occur about the same time as my Stream+’s arrival. I’ll let you know.

Logo for ESPN + network in Latin AmericaNick Statt of The Verge reported this afternoon that the ESPN Plus streaming service will launch this spring. That was the word from Disney CEO Bob Iger, speaking during his company’s earnings call.

The most important detail was the price: $4.99/month. For that money, subscribers will have access to Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, a whole lot of college sports, and other events. They’ll access them through a redesigned ESPN app.

But this isn’t as huge as it looks at first glance. Statt wrote that “ESPN Plus will not contain access to SportsCenter or to live ESPN channels, as Iger says Disney will not make ESPN Plus available unless you’re a ‘traditional or non-traditional’ subscriber of standard ESPN.” So cord-cutters won’t get to fill the sports hole in their schedule without finding another way to subscribe to the channel itself.

NBC PyeongChang 2018 Olympics logoSpeaking of 1992, as I was just a few days ago, in that same winter I participated in a survey about a special cable-TV package for the Olympics that was coming up that summer. Of the possible names, I picked the Olympics Triplecast, which was what NBC went with. They thought that two million households would pay $95 or more to see three channels of live coverage from Barcelona rather than waiting for prime-time, tape-delayed Olympics programming for free. Only about 200,000 subscribers paid for what the Philadelphia Inquirer called “the biggest marketing disaster since New Coke”.

Which brings me around to the 2018 Winter Olympics, which begin in a couple of days, and how to watch. Most the options are based on one question: What parts do you want to watch, and how much are you willing to pay to watch them? Maybe that’s two questions.

The Tablo blog suggests that you might be able to get by with free over-the-air TV, especially if it’s recorded on your Tablo receiver. But NBC will be sharing Olympics coverage with some of its other pay-TV channels. As broken down by Sports Illustrated, NBC will offer 176 hours of events during the 18-day PyeongChang games, NBC Sports Network will have 369(!) hours, and USA Network and CNBC will fill in a bit with 40 and 46 hours respectively. (Ironically, NBC’s Olympics channel will have no event coverage, just a few hours a day of news and highlights.)

Among streaming services, Sling TV Blue will give you NBC Sports Network and USA for just $25/month. CNBC is part of Sling Blue’s News Extra add-on, another $5/month, so you could see whether those few events are worth it to you. DirecTV Now makes that choice for you, including all three in its most basic Live A Little package at $35/month. Ditto for YouTube TV‘s standard $35/month plan. Fubo TV has all three in its basic $45/month tier.

Then there’s Hulu. Its $40/month “Live TV experience” includes all of those networks and access to its library of TV shows and movies. Mallory Locklear of Engadget reported that Hulu Live customers will be able to build a personalized schedule of the events they care about. “For example, users selecting luge and freestyle skiing as their favorites will see coverage of those events appear up top in the Olympic Winter Games section of the Hulu UI.”

Compared to the Triplecast, today’s over-the-top streaming viewers get more coverage for less than half the cost, not even considering inflation. If I don’t need to watch the Olympics live, then recording broad swathes of NBC on my Tablo would probably work, letting me skip past the puff pieces and the sports I don’t want to watch. On the other hand, I’m really happy with my basic Sling Blue subscription, and I’ll find out just how much curling and ice hockey it will give me.

DirecTV Now slogan "The future of TV is now"AT&T’s traditional pay-TV services lost over 1 million subscribers last year, according to its quarterly earnings report, relayed by FierceCable’s Daniel Frankel. The company pointed to a roughly corresponding increase in customers for its over-the-top DirecTV Now service, but MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wasn’t impressed. “That the company continues to grow its base of DirecTV Now subscribers isn’t helpful — AT&T loses money on them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jon Fingas of Engadget tells us that the next generation of DirecTV Now interface is in the pipeline for full launch this springs. The new version will also include a cloud-based DVR and support for a third stream.

And in general, US broadband-only households are projected to nearly double in the next five years according to a guess projection by Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, quoted by Advanced Television. It said that Kagan expects 38.4 per cent of the combined residential cable and telco wireline broadband subscribers in 2022 to rely broadband and over-the-air TV. I guess we’ll see.

A wall of multi-colored sticky notesDarren Rovell at ESPN says that Fox bought the rights to the next five years’ worth of Thursday Night Football from the NFL for over $60 million per game. He points out that players hate playing on Thursdays because that doesn’t give them enough time to heal from the previous Sunday’s game, but NFL commissioner Goodell said, “We will continue to work with the NFLPA to make the shorter week more attractive in a way that is better for our players.” The obvious answer is to only play on a Thursday when it’s after a bye week. Anyway, it’s great to see some content stay freely available on over-the-air TV, unlike …

Star Trek: Discovery hasn’t driven enough subscribers to the CBS All Access OTT service, if you believe the numbers crunched by Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia (which isn’t a typo, honest). He points out that Discovery is the least-viewed Star Trek series ever, writing “CBS’s decision to release the show through All Access appears to have deprived it of most of its audience.” (Although with the general decline of OTA ratings since ST: Enterprise ended in May 2005, that might have been true even if it had stayed on CBS.) All Access seems unlikely to make its goal of 8 million subscribers by 2020.

Finally, Chris Johnston of BBC News wrote last week that pay-TV provider Sky was going to make all its channels and content available online. Despite the article’s title, “Sky signals the end of the satellite dish”, the company said it didn’t plan to stop broadcasting by satellite. And I would add, yet. Satellites are darned expensive compared to internet delivery, so if the latter improves, we might see less and less of the former.