Dishing the latest from the satellite TV world.

After a hotly contested licensing battle that dragged on for months, AT&T and Viacom networks finally reached an agreement in late March to avoid a programming blackout for DIRECTV subscribers. Putting various popular channels at stake (like Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, MTV, etc), as most of the carriage disputes go, there was plenty of public contention in the weeks leading up to the March 22nd deadline. Both sides felt they needed to dramatically adjust costs and set a precedent with this deal. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the negotiations and the potential domino effect of the eventual contract.

Like most good negotiations, both sides left a bit miffed

At the heart of the squabble were the carriage fees for Viacom’s mix of general-interest channels (check out Viacom’s networks). Over the past 5 years, basically every renegotiation for media licensing (where TV providers such as DIRECTV buy the rights to studio’s programming library) has resulted in an increase in costs…mostly due to inflation and a rise in costs to produce original programming. However, and while the exact terms of this AT&T and Viacom deal weren’t disclosed, the word on the telecom street is AT&T is paying less than the $1.3 Billion/year specified in the previous contract (yep, that’s Billion). This is pretty significant as it’s likely to set a benchmark for future licensing disputes. Services like DIRECTV constantly have to straddle the line between their costs to buy TV content and the prices they charge their subscriber base. Viacom is a mid-tier media company and while DIRECTV was likely willing to let a temporary blackout tighten the negotiating screws, they – almost – definitely weren’t ready to let those channels go dark for an extended period of times (subscribers tend to quickly look elsewhere when a number of their favorite channels suddenly get taken away).

Which side needed the deal more?

Hypothetically, would DIRECTV ever let a mid/large-tier media partner like Viacom pull all its channels from its line-up? Unlikely, but there were pundits out there that recommended AT&T save the $1.x Billion and investment in customer growth via other means (such as new tech, synergistic partnerships, etc). At the end of the day, the risk of subscriber loss on DIRECTV’s side would almost ensure a deal get done — however, if/when a media partner asks for a ridiculously large increase and just won’t budge, you may see the first big outage of channels. Of course, issues like these effect all TV providers, including streaming/OTT, so having massive negotiating leverage like AT&T has does help to keep the lights on and customers happy.

On Viacom’s side, their revenue hinges on selling their content. So, although they went on a high profile PR blitz before the March deadline (on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, etc), they ultimately needed this agreement to keep sustainable revenue flowing.

Ok, that’s all kinda interesting, but how’s this immediately affect me?

Well, first and foremost, channels like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central aren’t leaving DIRECTV anytime soon and DTV’s channels aren’t getting stripped down (like you’re seeing with various other providers). Viacom and DIRECTV wont be renegotiating until years down the line. Second, since DIRECTV managed to get their carriage fees reduced, this deal is not going to trigger a trickle-down increase in monthly rates. Their pricing has remained relatively stable (and transparent) over the past few years and expect that to continue for the foreseeable future. You’ll still need to sign up for a two year contract, but that’s the trade-off for the dramatically reduced rates in year one of the contract.

So, small disaster averted… now back to our regularly scheduled programming :).

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Where to Catch 4K Sports Action on Satellite TV

by Jack Berkins on November 29, 2017

If you’re a weekender high def sports junkie or just want to follow your local team in crystal clear 4k (aka ultra HD), the good news is DISH and DIRECTV are off to a solid start in the 4K TV department. While it’s still early in the adoption cycle, every passing month sees more broadcasters and programmers add 4K sporting events to their flagship and mainstream lineups. In this article, we’ll compare when and where you can find the most ultra HD action and whether DISH or DIRECTV is likely to ramp up coverage faster in the coming years…

Current 4K Programming

The upside for sports fans is that most of the global 4k programming currently available is sports-related (since they tend to provide the biggest visual/marketing upside). Each provider needs to negotiate 4K rights with broadcasters, so DIRECTV and DISH’s 4k offerings are slightly different at the moment. Here’s a quick overview:

DIRECTV Sports in 4K

DIRECTV has a couple different channels dedicated solely to 4K –
#104 is non-sports, featuring documentaries, travel shows, etc.
Channel 106 is a bit more inclusive with at least half of its programming consisting of live sporting events.
Outside of specific channels, DIRECTV broadcasts select NBA, College Football and English Premier Soccer League contests in 4K. Go here for a list of the upcoming matches in 4K.

DISH Sports in 4K

In general, DISH is just slightly behind DIRECTV in the 4K sports arena. They have one channel (#540) dedicated to 4k college football games via Fox Sports, but do expect to add basketball, baseball and NASCAR in the near future. When that happens, they’ll likely be right up there (or ahead) of DIRECTV. One of DISH’s current upsides over DIRECTV is that they offer free HD for life. So, as 4k becomes more predominant, after you pick up a 4K TV, it won’t cost you a running monthly charge to enjoy its insanely high clarity (8.2 million pixels!).

Requirements

For DIRECTV, you’ll need the following:

  • TV: Of course, you’ll need an ultra HD-capable TV (smart TV components aren’t necessary). If you’re in the market for one, check out this helpful 4k TV guide at amazon, with many priced at under $500
  • DVR: Genie with 4k minis or an HR54 & above receiver (must be connected to the internet)
  • Package: with English packages, you’ll need the Select plan or above; with Spanish, it’ll take Mas Latino or higher

With DISH, here’s the rundown…

  • DVR: The Hopper 3 (or latest version) with 4k Joeys
  • Package: with English packages, America’s Top 120 plan or above is required (note the Flex Pack doesn’t qualify you for 4K). Ultra HD isn’t currently available with Spanish-language plans but expect that to change soon.

Wrapping up

If you’ve already experienced 4K TV resolution (3840 x 2160), you know just how crystal-clear, crisp and non-pixelated the picture quality gets. Essentially, the massive number of extra pixels close the space between pixels found in previous HD technologies, resulting in an amazing viewing experience from any angle or distance to the TV. It’s still early in the evolution of 4K and as more sporting events get shot in 4K, you’ll slowly see DIRECTV and DISH expand their options, letting you critique that last-minute TD or blown strike call in the 9th that much easier!

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New to the Genie: Entertainment Extras App

October 13, 2017

All too often, media and programming companies sit on their laurels after the successful launch of a new device or service. In DIRECTV’s case, the stellar roll-out of the Genie a few years back only served to further motivate their tech/media teams to innovate and make the selection process as user-friendly as possible (DISH’s Hopper […]

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AT&T Unlimited Plan: Uncapped AT&T Wireless Data for DIRECTV Subscribers

February 3, 2016

The first real cross-promotional offer since AT&T’s acquisition of DIRECTV, AT&T recently announced that any wireless subscriber with either a DIRECTV or AT&T U-verse plan, now qualifies for unlimited data usage. Coined the “AT&T Unlimited Plan“, it’s a nice little bonus for current or prospective customers (AT&Ts main goal here is to introduce folks to […]

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DISH to Experiment with More Engaging, User-friendly Commercials

December 18, 2015

Let’s face it, no one really likes commercials, but it’s a necessary part of the TV broadcast biz (to offset production costs, etc). Luckily, commercial-skipping technology like DISH’s Autohop (which only works with NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX) and DIRECTV’s 30-sec skip helps avoid ’em if you’re so inclined. The market implication of that kind […]

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DIRECTV’s Audience Network to be added to U-verse Lineup

October 4, 2015

Another nice benefit of AT&T’s recent acquisition of DIRECTV, it was just announced that the popular Audience Network will be added to U-verse’s channel lineup. Slotted for U-verse channel #1114, it’ll give folks access to plenty of new, original content. The Audience Network, previously exclusive to DIRECTV and first launched in 2011, features both original […]

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Could an AT&T Deal with DIRECTV Finally Deliver the Pac-12 Network?

April 2, 2015

Is an agreement amongst all three coming soon?[/caption]Ever since the Pac-12 Network officially launched in 2012, DIRECTV subscribers and college fans (especially those on the west coast) have been left out in the cold. The root of the problem stems from the per-subscriber fees. License disagreements are all-to-common these days, and, for the most post, […]

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NBC Universo Launches in HD on Superbowl Sunday

February 4, 2015

Formerly known as mun2 (Telemundo’s 2nd channel), NBC Universo officially launched its new channel and programming lineup on Superbowl Sunday. All part of a brand revamp, it targeted Feb. 1st as it had exclusive rights to broadcast the game in Spanish (not surprisingly, as NBC, their parent company, carried the game). While the all Spanish-language […]

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DISH Subscribers Could Lose CBS Starting Tomorrow

December 3, 2014

In the latest of the recent programming squabbles, DISH could end up losing CBS tomorrow, 12/4/14, at 7 PM EST. There have been numerous phases throughout the 6-month negotiation, including a Thanksgiving extension to allow folks to catch their NFL action, but this appears to be the tipping point. CBS just publicly stated there will […]

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DIRECTV to launch Ya Veo, a Netflix-like OTT Service

September 13, 2014

The latest buzz out of El Segundo, CA (DIRECTV’s HQ) is they’re ready to launch a new, Netflix-like service by year’s end. Coined “Ya Veo” (I can see), it’s an over-the-top (OTT) service primarily targeted towards the Latino demographic. OTT refers to the cord-cutting trend (Hulu, Netflix, etc) that streams specialized AND inexpensive programming over […]

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