Dish Network to stream online

Faith Merino · August 23, 2010 · Short URL:

Satellite TV provider to begin offering online content this week


As TV-viewing habits evolve with the ever-shifting landscape of mobile media and digital technology, so too must cable and satellite carriers.

This week, Dish Network will become the latest distributor to offer online viewing of its content, and several cable networks are jumping aboard the bandwagon. 

Dish customers starting Tuesday will be able to view programs from the Discovery Channel, HGTV, and MTV online at  While the Web site will provide some scattered free video clips, TV shows and movies will only be available to paying subscribers.  For a one-time rental fee, customers can also rent full stream versions of movies to watch online.

Dish Network’s move to provide online content follows similar recent moves by Time Warner and Comcast to jump on the concept of “TV Everywhere,” which takes TV access beyond the traditional cable-package to other modes of viewing, such as the internet.  While Dish Network was not immediately available for comment, Dish’s Senior Vice President for Programming, Dave Shull, explained the move in a recent interview with The New York Times as an adaptive one.  “People are shifting where they watch video, and I want to shift with them.” 

Indeed, people are shifting where and how they watch video, but to what extent?  An August poll by The New York Times and CBS found that 88 percent of respondents paid for traditional TV service.  Of those subscribers, only 15 percent claimed to have considered replacing their TV service with internet video services, such as Hulu and YouTube.

What’s the problem?

In the past, those brave souls who have considered cutting off their traditional TV service altogether in favor of free online viewing have been hampered by the fact that some of their favorite programs are only available via paid subscription, such as TV shows on HBO and Showtime.  Another factor in the slow shift to complete online viewing is the fact that many media companies have made far-reaching efforts to ensure that their product is legally protected to safeguard their revenues.  Cable shows like “American Idol” are not legally viewable online at all.  Of course, many online viewers have found ways around such legal trappings, particularly younger viewers.  It is also no coincidence that poll respondents under the age of 45 were four times more likely than respondents over the age of 45 to say that internet video services will one day replace traditional TV service. 

Carriers are taking pains to adapt to the emerging needs of those TV viewers who are shifting their viewing habits away from traditional in-home settings to mobile devices.  Last week, Verizon announced plans to provide a live TV app for download on the iPad.  Tablets and smartphones are receiving attention from other carriers, as well, such as Cablevision. 

However, while it is not unheard of for college freshmen to end a stressful day of writing term papers by huddling over the same laptop to watch TV, what about those who don’t want to give up the in-home feel?  Many TV viewers still prefer their big screen experience, but simply don’t want to pay for shows and channels they don’t watch.  This is where shines.  Customers who connect their set-top boxes to the internet can watch live TV, recorded TV shows, and movies online. 

Back in February, Comcast made a similar move in its launch of Xfinity and its Fancast Web site, which offers over 19,000 movies and TV shows on demand.  According to the company’s blog, “Only a few years ago, innovation in our industry meant giving customers not one, but six HBO channels. Now, if you get HBO from Comcast, you also get hundreds of top HBO shows and movies on demand plus you can watch even more online.”

Solutions to other problems remain to be seen, particularly the concerns of content providers over authentication methods to verify subscribers, how advertisements will be shown, how many devices should be able to log in on one account, and how many TV shows and movies should be available at any given moment. 

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