Dish Networks, which says it wants to launch an Internet TV service this year, is getting closer to its goal: The satellite TV company has signed a deal with A&E Networks that lets it stream the cable programmer’s shows on the Web.
The deal gives Dish the rights to stream live and on-demand programming from A&E’s lineup of channels, which include A&E, History and Lifetime; A&E has flourished in recent years by embracing reality shows like “Duck Dynasty.”
This is the second set of Web programming rights Dish has announced for its service, which it hopes to sell for around $30 a month. In March, Dish signed a deal with Disney that gave it rights to stream ABC, ESPN and other channels; that pact, like the A&E one, came as part of a larger renewal deal for Dish’s satellite service.
The two deals seem to put Dish farther ahead in the Web TV race than anyone else so far. Last year, Intel announced that it was going to sell TV on the Web, then bailed out; earlier this year, Sony announced that it would sell TV on the Web, but has yet to announce any programming deals.
Dish will need at last a handful of other deals in order to sell a credible TV package, but that certainly looks possible at this point. It will be interesting to see if Viacom, which reports earnings this week, has anything to say about a deal.
The bigger question is whether consumers will want to buy Web TV if it looks and acts just like regular pay TV — that is, a bundle of channels instead of a la carte programming.
Conventional TV providers are experimenting with selling “skinny” bundles of programming to make pay TV more palatable for some customers, and it looks like Dish’s Web plan is to offer something similar — a few dozen channels instead of hundreds.
But anyone who signs on to Dish’s plan — if it actually launches — will still need a deal with a broadband provider in order to stream the shows, and just about everyone in the broadband business is in the pay-TV business, too.