One of the last dominoes to fall in breaking up cable television's unfair, ridiculous practice of bundling dozens of channels together fell today, when Dish Network announced its new Sling TV service will offer ESPN and ESPN2 as part of a streaming package sold for $20 per month.
Sling TV will be available as an app/streaming website in the same manner as HBO Go, which, by the way, is rolling out its new standalone streaming subscription in April -- just in time for the Game of Thrones premiere.
Live sports are really the only thing keeping well-informed consumers from cutting the cord on cable. Nearly everything else can be found on Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, or the new HBO service, when that launches.
Now with ESPN and its juggernaut lineup of premier sporting events added to the mix, we're all tantalizingly close to paying only for the channels we actually want. It's worth mentioning Sling TV consumers will also get access to TNT, TBS, Food Network, Cartoon Network, HGTV, and Disney Channel, so maybe bundles are just getting smaller. Progress, anyway.
The last major player still stuck on cable is Fox Sports, with its valuable network of local affiliates (Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin, etc). Locally, FSN holds rights to almost all of the Wild, Timberwolves, and Twins games, which, ineptitude aside, are still essential for any local sports rube.
Cord-cutters can subscribe to services like MLB.tv or NBA League pass, but we'd wager most don't have the time, interest, or cash to follow individual leagues that closely and would rather just watch all of the local teams.
We called Becky Mielke, a public relations guru for Fox Sports North, today to ask if a standalone streaming service for the local clubs was in the works. She referred us to her corporate bosses, who didn't respond to a request for comment.
Regardless of what Fox Sports does, the road to cable's demise is paved. Soon a Minneapolis resident will be able to spend $8-9/month on Netflix/Hulu, $20/month on Sling TV, $TBD on HBO, and buy US Internet's vastly superior 100 megabyte internet connection at $50/month, which roughly adds up to what most are paying for Comcast's crappy bundle right now. It's a good start.
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