Sling International is out of Fashion TV

Sling International showing Dish Network notice that "We apologize for the interruption of service."Long-time readers might remember that I maintain a subscription to Sling International’s World Sports pack. It’s a pretty decent set of live sports channels and a few other interesting English-language bits thrown in, if you don’t mind watching stuff you’ve probably never heard of. But my main reason is not to watch live baseball from Japan or cricket highlights; it’s to keep track of the delivery system and channel lineup. Unlike what happens to Sling TV’s normal US channels, if anything changes, I can’t find anywhere else on the web that talks about it.

Case in point. One of the benefits of keeping that World Sports subscription is being able to check in on an old favorite that I’ve known since its FTA satellite days, Fashion TV. I’ve written about this channel for over eight years. It was one of the first free satellite channels to upgrade to HD, then it moved to Dish Network for a while, then it was gone, and then it surfaced among Dish International’s free English channels, thrown in with almost any other package.

In recent years, it looks to me as though Fashion TV is shifting its emphasis away from mostly showing models walking funny and wearing clothes that make them look like they lost a bet. There are more swimsuits on runways, and photo shoots of swimsuits, and lingerie. Or maybe those were just the snippets I checked in on as I was keeping track of available channels. Honestly, if you added up the time I’ve spent watching Fashion TV, it’s got to be less than an hour total over the past five years, but I know which shows I prefer there.

About three weeks ago, when I checked on Fashion TV, what I saw looked like the image embedded in this post. It’s the standard Dish Network card for a temporary technical difficulty, most often a weather-related outage. I shrugged and moved on – Ebru still has Doctor Who reruns.

A week later, that card was still there for Fashion TV. A second week later, still no change. I chatted with Sling customer service, and the rep’s only information was that they were having problems with the signal. Now it’s a third week (or more) and the card has stayed the same.

Notice that there’s no suggestion that Fashion TV is gone for good. I can still scroll back to see program images from the past week; they just don’t work.

If this were ESPN, or heck, even if this were the DYI network, a “temporary” outage that lasted two days would light up some corner of Internet discussion, but I can’t find anyone else who’s noticed this one. I’ve reached out to Sling / Dish, and I’ll update this post when I hear anything. Till then, weird, huh?

Update: Sure enough, Fashion TV never returned. If I ever find out what happened, I’ll post it here, but my guess was that it was simply money – Fashion TV wanted more than Sling wanted to give.

What the new Hulu has in common with Voom

Voom and Hulu logos

Hulu’s announcement last week that it would offer almost* commercial-free programming for an extra $4/month reminded me of its connection to the former Voom Networks. That connection is only in my mind, unless you want to buy into the following conspiracy theory.

First, let’s talk Hulu. It’s owned by three of the six large content companies in the US: Comcast (NBC), News Corporation (Fox), and Disney (ABC). Hulu’s primary distinguishing feature as an over-the-top pay-TV service was its long-time insistence on including commercials, even though it knew that was an issue for potential and current paid subscribers. Then why did it take so long for Hulu to offer a higher-priced, ad-free* version? I assume it’s because its owners, three major TV networks, did not want audiences to get used to the idea of watching regular TV shows anywhere without commercial interruption.

Back in the days when TV stations used only the public airwaves as a free service, advertising was the only way to pay the bills, yet broadcasting was mostly a lucrative business. When cable permeated America, many stations also picked up retransmission consent fees, which have risen astronomically since. In time, the major networks got a piece of both of those revenue streams, but it must have been baked into the content providers’ minds that commercial interruption was a lifeline that they would not easily relinquish.

Now to the conspiracy theory. In 2003, back when HD programming was unusual, Cablevision launched Voom, a standalone satellite TV service with 21 channels of commercial-free HDTV. In 2005, Dish Network pretty much bought out Voom’s satellite lease and resold the Voom channels to Dish subscribers. That’s where I came in; I loved Voom’s colorful, uninterrupted programming, and they soon became some of my favorite Dish channels.

(It’s important for me to point out here that, although I was both a Dish beta tester and shareholder at the time, I had and have absolutely no inside information about anything that happened between Dish and Voom. The theory I concocted is based only on public news accounts, of which the Wikipedia entry is a decent summary, and there’s an excellent chance that it’s completely wrong. But my theory is entertaining to consider, and it mostly fits what we know.)

Voom was rolling along. It had a 15-year contract with to Dish to distribute its programming, which it was selling to over a million subscribers. The only hint of a problem was that Voom content was becoming a bit … repetitive. A lot of the series on its schedules, mostly foreign imports, remained the same.

In January 2008, Dish tried to end its contract with Voom, saying that Voom hadn’t invested its required $100 million in content in 2006; Cablevision offered what it said was proof that it had followed the letter of the contract. In May 2008, without warning, Dish dumped all of the Voom channels, replacing them with roughly equivalent channels, such as Palladia substituting for Voom’s Rave HD music channel. Without a major distributor, Voom closed up shop a few months later. Meanwhile, Voom’s owners sued Dish, and then things got really weird.

In November 2010, New York state judge Richard Lowe ruled that Dish’s then-parent Echostar had “systematically destroyed evidence in direct violation of the law” by erasing emails. Lowe said he would instruct the jury to assume that those emails would have helped Voom prove its case. Despite that hefty sanction, the case continued to trial in September 2012. Just before Dish CEO Charlie Ergen was due to take the stand, Dish settled the case, paying over $700 million to Cablevision.

To recap, it appears that Dish was making a profit on every Voom subscriber, yet it decided to fatally wound the service and then wiped evidence that would explain why, even though that would end up costing Dish almost three-quarters of a billion dollars. Until Ergen writes his memoirs, we’ll never know why Dish did that, so let me make up something that fits.

Dish needs decent relationships with the folks who create its channels. Those are some of the same people who fought so hard and long against letting Hulu subscribers watch TV without ads. Voom’s channels had no ads. What if the big media companies put pressure on Dish to dump the Cablevision-created upstart and substitute similar, ad-supported programming? There’s no way Dish would have chosen Voom over the six huge companies who control Dish’s bread-and-butter channels. Could they have wielded the stick of threatened channel blackouts or the carrot of improved contract terms to offset the cost of deleting all the emails associated with those conversations? There’s no way of knowing, but that sure matches the mindset of those Hulu owners.

*Even when it tried to create an ad-free service, Hulu couldn’t make it 100%. As the signup page states, a few shows are not included “due to streaming rights”. Subscribers still have to watch commercials before and after Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, New Girl, Grimm and How To Get Away With Murder. Those all have ties to the owners’ production companies, and I guess they can’t let go.

Fall 2015: What’s new in channel surfing

Pluto TV

Pluto TV

Summer break is over, so let me catch up with what’s available in free TV viewing. For sheer quantity, there’s more than anyone could ever want.

First and foremost, over-the-air TV remains strong. With digital sub-channels, the typical viewer has dozens of choices. Here at FTABlog World Headquarters in Denver, I receive 68 channels. Your mileage will vary, of course; according to TitanTV, there are over 90 channels available in New York City and over 140 in Los Angeles but only 32 in Springfield MO. There’s a storm cloud on the horizon with the FCC’s upcoming TV spectrum auction, which could cause some of those stations disappear to make room for more mobile internet access. We’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out.

Next is FTABlog’s raison d’etre: free-to-air satellite TV. There are almost 300 free TV channels available with a pretty small Ku-band dish. Over 90 of those are in English, and that doesn’t include the many news feeds, sports feeds, and other such transient satellite signals. If you have a big C-band dish, there are another couple hundred interesting free channels to watch.

With broadband internet access, there are plenty of interesting options, although they haven’t changed much lately. With Aereo and Nimble TV gone, there aren’t any good ways to watch streaming US OTA channels, unless it comes from your own antenna, but there’s still a lot to watch. FilmOn continues to provide a wide range of channels, and internet video aggregator Rabbit TV (not quite free) got a mention at USA Today this week. Pluto TV includes dozens of channels including live news feeds. For ad-supported free TV that isn’t live, there’s Crackle and some parts of Hulu, and for more old TV and movies than you’ll ever have time to watch, there’s the Internet Archive.

There’s a chance we could see an avalanche of streaming channels, OTA and otherwise, if the FCC gives online services full rights and responsibilities as multichannel video programming distributors like cable and satellite providers. Imagine if broadcasters had to negotiate in good faith with the likes of FilmOn. This could open up a whole new category of video service.

Hey, I even had to update the About page here to reflect a change in free (as in free speech) TV. For years, it was nigh impossible to watch reruns of Spenser: For Hire. Period. No reruns on any network, no streaming services, no DVDs. Now that last option, at least, is available as print-on-demand sets on Amazon. Robert Urich, rest his soul, is no Spenser, but Avery Brooks was born to play Hawk. Now I’ll have to start wishing for something else, maybe the complete Fernwood 2 Night?

All in all, it’s a great time to be watching free TV. Discover something you like, kick back, and enjoy.

Sinclair mini-blackout could be a retrans milestone

Mean, angry TV set with teeth

© Depositphotos / herminutomo

Last week, we got to see the full lifespan of a retransmission consent dispute condensed to just a day or two. When Sinclair Broadcasting tried to tie an unrelated pay-only network to permission to rebroadcast 129 over-the-air channels, Dish Network and the FCC blocked them, and Sinclair’s blackout ended in less than 24 hours.

At least that’s what happened if you believe Dish, and since I’m still a Dish shareholder, that would be my inclination. Sinclair has a completely different view, and I’ll get around to that.

First, the details. A couple of weeks ago, Dish filed a complaint to the FCC saying Sinclair was refusing to negotiate. The day after that formal complaint, Dish said Sinclair had resumed talks. Then last Tuesday, Sinclair pulled its 129 TV stations off Dish solely “to gain negotiating leverage for carriage of an unrelated cable channel that it hopes to acquire,” according a Dish press release. Dish also restarted the FCC complaint.

The next morning, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sprang to action, calling for an emergency meeting with Dish and Sinclair. “Just last year, Congress instructed the Commission to look closely at whether retransmission consent negotiations are being conducted in good faith,” he wrote. “That’s why I have proposed to my fellow Commissioners a new rulemaking to determine how best to protect the public interest.” By the end of the day, Sinclair had agreed in principle to a long-term deal with Dish and lifted the blackout.

BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield wrote in a blog post that Sinclair’s short-lived blackout may be the last straw for unfettered retransmission demands. “The government is looking for reasons to get more involved to help consumers,” he wrote. “Sinclair may have finally given them a blatant enough excuse.”

On the other hand, Sinclair later claimed that the FCC’s actions had literally nothing to do with the speedy end to the blackout. Seriously. “In fact, the FCC process actually delayed the resolution, because it added more issues to negotiate, which lengthened DISH’s service interruption, not shortened it,” Sinclair wrote. So without that meddling FCC, the blackout would have been over in maybe eight hours? I guess we’ll never know.

If this incident signals a new willingness for the FCC to protect the public interest in retransmission fee negotiations, Greenfield might be spot on. If stations have to negotiate on price alone without leveraging unrelated networks, and if the FCC will nudge them to bargain in good faith, maybe we could start seeing contracts reached through arbitration instead of blackouts. If viewers are okay with monthly subscriptions to watch their local free-TV stations, they deserve to get what they pay for.

Who ruled US music videos before MTV?

After too long of a break, FTABlog returns to its important coverage of 1980s music video. Let’s see how many we can fit in before real TV news returns.

I first got cable in 1981, and it’s hard to overstate the effect it had on my TV viewing. Cable back then included about 30 channels of live TV. (The first system carried 36 channels, but some of them were informational filler, like community calendars and the slow-scanned news photos of the Satellite Program Network, whose name prompted ESPN to add the E. But I digress.) For prime-time viewers, that meant 30 choices instead of six over-the-air channels. The difference for me was more dramatic. I worked at a morning newspaper, arriving home around 2 AM. For me, cable meant about 20 choices instead of exactly one OTA channel, the only one that broadcast through the night.

(One more digression: At the newspaper, a copy boy who worked the same shift mentioned watching Marcus Welby reruns when he got home. “I don’t like Marcus Welby,” he said, “but it’s the only thing on.”)

Back then, HBO would run little filler programs between movies, and one of them was the Video Jukebox, which showed a music video or two. Before MTV caught on, this was the widest method of exposure for music videos in the US. Anyway, I’ll always remember one night when the video was the ubiquitous hit Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes. I thought I was incredibly lucky to get this big hit from whatever random video list HBO used; I didn’t recognize that the network carefully chose every interstitial feature. It’s fun to remember when I was young and stupid in different ways than I am now.

Well, hey, Carnes got something wrong too. The original version as recorded in 1974 by Jackie DeShannon suggested that Davis could “make a crow blush” but Carnes’ version misspeaks that lyric as “make a pro blush”. DeShannon’s version made a lot more sense, although Carnes’ did spend nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts. At least DeShannon, with Donna Weiss, got some composer royalties out of it.

Canada’s a la carte experiment is about to get real

Shaw Direct TV screenshotLast week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that as of December 2016 it will require pay-TV providers to offer a la carte subscriptions. Viewers will pay for a base package that includes all over-the-air, regional and public access channels, then they’ll be able to select any other channels they want to pay for.

This is exactly what I’ve been advocating for years for all pay-TV viewers. Content providers force fifth-tier rerun channels into pay-TV bundles to squeeze a few more dollars and to preserve channel real estate for future rebranding. They make it harder for competitors to establish new channels, and they pad subscribers’ bills with little benefit.

Of course, the folks who profit from the status quo and those who support those folks have always said that the sky will fall once a la carte starts. Less than two years ago, an industry analyst claimed that, for example, ESPN would cost around $30 a month if sold separately. (Now that Sling TV sells ESPN plus a few other channels for just $20, that analyst might need to revise her figures.)

Whenever I heard those arguments, I always pointed to Canada, where some pay-TV companies have had a loose form of a la carte for years. Satellite TV provider Shaw Direct, with over 900,000 subscribers, already offers most of its channels in small bundles or even “Pick and Pay” a la carte to supplement its broader programming packages. (The other Canadian satellite TV provider, Bell Direct, which used to offer similar bundles, now sells tier-based packages similar to any cable company. But I digress.) Canada’s ESPN equivalent/sister channel, TSN, costs nowhere near $30/month, and the Canadian sky has not yet fallen.

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, enthusiastically promotes a la carte as a way to get viewers what they want at a lower price. Through the years, Consumer Reports has campaigned against cigarettes, in favor of testing cars for rollover safety, and lots of other stuff. Have those folks ever pushed an idea that turned out to be really awful? I can’t think of any; if you can find an example, please post it in the comments.

In the US, content providers have too much clout to ever allow a la carte, but at least we’ll all get to see the results of Canada’s real-world experiment. How many pay-TV channels will die? Will new, independent channels spring up to take their place? Will the average bill go down? Will TSN cost $30? We’ll know the answers just a couple of years from now.

Review: Streaming Sling TV isn’t that great

Universal Sports on Sling TV

Universal Sports, part of Sling TV’s optional Sports Extra

I’ve had a few weeks to play with Sling TV, the new streaming service from Dish Network, not to be confused with the Slingbox hardware device of the same name. Sling TV, the Best in Show winner at the International CES 2015, has been touted as the answer for cord-cutters who still want ESPN and a few other pay-TV channels. It might be exactly that, but for me, I don’t know whether it’s worth the $20 or more monthly subscription fee.

First, the good news. Sling TV performed flawlessly every time I used it. That’s not very surprising since it’s based on the mature streaming technology of DishWorld, which has been running since 2012. (DishWorld will soon change its name to Sling International, but I digress.) Through announcements with AMC and Epix, Dish has indicated that it will add programming to Sling TV’s already decent lineup. As with DishWorld, Sling TV is already available on Roku, iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows, and Sling TV is also promoting its new Amazon Fire TV app. The same pay-per-view movies are listed on Sling TV as DishWorld, including (surprisingly) free Bollywood movies.

One improvement that Sling TV offers over DishWorld is an intermediate viewing Window in its Windows app. The DishWorld app’s only options are a small monitor area in its menu window (see below) or full screen. The really big advantage is ESPN; for most households, Sling TV is the least expensive option for watching ESPN.

In fact, Sling TV only really suffers in comparison with other viewing options. Its worst problem is its lack of DVR; most Sling TV channels don’t even include the “last week on-demand” option present with every DishWorld channel. So I can watch ESPN or TBS live, but I can’t pause the stream, record it, or watch shows from earlier today. That’s standard behavior for watching TV in a hotel room, but most of us viewers have recorders, and we’re pretty used to them. (My family refers to live, unpauseable TV as “hotel mode” TV. But I digress again.)

Universal Sports on DishWorld

Universal Sports on DishWorld

DishWorld recently began offering a Sports TV package with 21 channels for a measly $10 a month. That includes Universal Sports and beIN Sports, both part of Sling TV’s Sports Extra package, plus One World Sports, Willow Cricket, Trace Sport Stars, beIN Sports en Español, Nautical Channel, and 14 non-sports channels, including personal favorites FashionTV, Baby TV and more. If you want Sling TV for Monday Night Football, then DishWorld can’t help you. But if you just want to watch something and you’ve got an open mind, it’s a pretty good deal. I sometimes watch 21st-century Doctor Who episodes on demand from Ebru TV, and I’ll tune in to DishWorld’s news channels for a different perspective on events.

Here’s a chunk of perspective that you won’t find anywhere else: Sling TV isn’t as good as NimbleTV was before it had to shut down. By working as a streaming adjunct to a separate Dish subscription, NimbleTV provided more channels and a full DVR. NimbleTV’s iOS app was as good as Sling TV’s, and NimbleTV was working on adding other platforms. Its tier with ESPN cost a whole lot more than Sling TV, so I’d like to have seen those two products compete in the marketplace – the inexpensive, well-promoted Sling TV and the little-known, pricey NimbleTV.

Another option is to effectively host your own NimbleTV – spring for a full Dish Network subscription at home, then use Dish Anywhere apps for streaming on the go. If you can mount a dish and don’t mind spending over $70 per month, that provides a lot of advantages over Sling TV. But I think I’m still sidestepping the point: If you’re a cord-cutter who really wants to watch ESPN and can handle it live-only, Sling TV is your solution. For the rest of us, I’m not so sure Sling TV is worth buying.

One last lesson from CES 2015

Left to right: Kris Alexander, Akamai; Jeff Binder, Layer3 TV; and Michael Goodman, Strategy Analytics, three of the panelists at an Internet TV conference session at CES.

Left to right: Kris Alexander, Akamai; Jeff Binder, Layer3 TV; and Michael Goodman, Strategy Analytics, three of the panelists at an Internet TV conference session at CES.

I promised myself that this year, at the International CES, I wouldn’t take photos of the zillion iPhone cases on display. If you wanted to see that, you’ll just have to content yourself with last year’s set. Instead, I’ll close the book on CES 2015 with truly useful insight.

Not my insight, of course. In this case, it came from a conference session called “InternetTV – The Disruption – Skinny TV – Mega Premium”. CES has plenty of conference tracks, but in general I find that the speakers at conference sessions either tell me what I already know or merely promote their companies’ initiatives, usually just new products or services. But this session ran before the show floor opened and at the same time as the opening keynote address. Unfortunately, I’ve never encountered a newsworthy CES keynote.

This conference session was better than most. The panelists discussed changing consumer behavior both caused by and driving internet-based TV viewing, especially as it related to the pay-TV bundle. Downplaying reports of widespread cord-cutting, Michael Goodman, Director of Digital Media for Strategy Analytics, said that millennials have always watched less TV and were less likely to subscribe to pay TV.  In support of pay-TV bundles, Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, said, “I think that consumers have not changed a whole lot. Each household has different constituents that watch different channels.” That echoed an earlier statement by TiVo’s Evan Young, who said, “Consumers are not monolithic. It’s different if you’re single.”

Later, the panelists discussed the economics of multi-channel TV, largely agreeing the the content owners ultimately, albeit indirectly, set the price to consumers. Goodman saw that, for example, Netflix’s low-cost contracts with content owners would all eventually require renewal and renegotiation. “Netflix is not going to cost $9-10 (per month) a year from now,” he said. “It’ll be $20 or $30.”

It was all surprisingly meaty, interesting discussion about the always unknowable future, with equal doses of inevitable change and unyielding status quo. But it was Kris Alexander, Chief Strategist at Akamai, who distilled the future of TV into one sentence. When it comes to competing TV systems, Alexander said, discovery and curation are critical.

That was a great thought to keep in my head for the rest of the show. When Tablo, Channel Master, TiVo and even SiliconDust were showing off their latest, they all were looking to offer new channels and suggestions to the viewer. When I would mention those two keys to the TV future, exhibitors would pause, then nod in appreciation for that clear vision.

As we move toward free TV (as in free speech, not free beer) where every viewer can choose what to watch and when to watch it, the winning viewing platform will be the one with the easiest interface and the best suggestions. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out on top.

Sling complement candidate #3: Roamio OTA

Screen shot from TiVo Roamio OTABack now to my reports from the International CES about over-the-air TV receivers that might be worthy complements to Dish’s announced Sling TV service. The next box to consider is TiVo’s Roamio OTA, which might be better than its competitors in every way but one.

TiVo pioneered the DVR and has the patents to prove it. Its iconic “peanut” remote control remains the gold standard for ease of use despite being stuffed with so very many little buttons. TiVo’s idea of “suggestions” – filling the DVR hard drive by recording shows you didn’t ask for but might like – remains unique among DVRs, suggesting to me that it’s one of TiVo’s patents.

Now TiVo has improved that wonderful, friendly user interface with the integration of streaming services. As you can see in the accompanying photo, if you’re not getting enough Two and a Half Men episodes from your local CW affiliate, the Roamio OTA indicates that more episodes are available from Amazon Instant Video and Vudu. It’s the perfect way to fill in episode gaps for binge watching.

The Roamio OTA can even stream like a Simple.TV or Tablo with the addition of the little TiVo Stream device. The list price for the Roamio OTA is a ridiculously low $49.99. There’s just one drawback, its fatal flaw: the excessive service fees required to operate it.

Let’s compare service fees per month, and over a three-year period.

  • DVR+: $0/month, $0/3 years
  • Simple.TV: $50/year, $150/3 years (lifetime)
  • Tablo: $5/month, $150/3 years (lifetime)
  • Roamio OTA: $14.99/month, $539.65/3 years

The Roamio OTA is ineligible for any TiVo lifetime subscription, so it gets expensive very quickly. Yes, the service is top-of-the-line, but does TiVo really need to charge that much for maybe 50 channels of guide data? Its competitors suggest that it does not. If you’re a cord-cutter with money to burn (if such a person exists), then the Roamio OTA should make you very happy. If you’re cutting back to save money, the Roamio OTA isn’t your best choice.

Rest in peace NimbleTV

Tombstone for NimbleTV

© Depositphotos.com / HitTune

I must pause from my International CES reporting to report the demise of a unique TV streaming service. NimbleTV, which had continued to collect emails for a 2015 relaunch after it “paused” on Monday, was acquired yesterday by another company. Synacor, which helps its clients deliver branded, personalized media, picked up NimbleTV’s patents and personnel, then told re/code’s Peter Kafka that NimbleTV had been “discontinued” and would not return.

On its web site, NimbleTV’s signup links now forward to a thank-you page (still named “signup.php”) which verifies that “we have decided to end our direct-to-consumer service.” That page claims NimbleTV had planned all along to be “a technology enabler for companies interested in boosting their streaming and TV viewing capabilities” as well as a streaming service.

I don’t believe it. Go watch NimbleTV founder/CEO Anand Subramanian’s June 2012 speech where he outlines his plans. What I saw in that video was a guy from India with a great idea to enable internet-based cable TV subscriptions, eventually including subscriptions from India. Subramanian made sure that every cable or (as it turned out) Dish TV subscriber paid full price to that company, plus a little extra for NimbleTV’s video concierge service. That sounded fair to me, but apparently the cable and satellite companies (under pressure from their content providers?) didn’t like it that they weren’t consulted.

I must reiterate here that my only knowledge of the innards of NimbleTV were the glimpses I saw as a paying customer. I know that NimbleTV signed me up to a Dish Network subscription for which I received exactly one paper bill before it presumably switched to some sort of NimbleTV autopay. I know that the pay-TV channels carried Dish ads, and that bad thunderstorms around New York could disrupt my service. The rest is speculation only.

My guess is that the fate of NimbleTV was determined by its Indian service and whatever happened to it. For a while, it offered several channel packages from a few different India-based cable companies, then that vanished without explanation. (Scroll down here to see a screen grab.) Was it pressure from Dish, whose DishWorld subsidiary also sells channel packages from India? Whatever torpedoed the Indian connection must have been devastating to NimbleTV’s founders. Also around that time, NimbleTV apparently started pulling in over-the-air channels (not offered on Dish) to package for verified local cable subscribers, who would have therefore paid any retransmission fees. Perhaps that was the point when NimbleTV began positioning itself more as a potential partner or acquisition candidate?

In my head, it all worked out this way: Back in July 2013, Dish had shut off service to NimbleTV for a few weeks but restored it after NimbleTV made some changes including never again mentioning the word “Dish.” After that, Dish was willing to take NimbleTV’s subscribers’ money rather than cause a public stink about it. Around December 2014, Dish told NimbleTV that it was going to launch Sling TV at CES, and that it was time for NimbleTV to gracefully cease reselling Dish programming. NimbleTV cut off new signups in late December and announced its “pause” during CES. With no income sources, it was time to cash out, so Synacor picked up a well-tested technology and the people who created it. That is the theory that I have, and which is mine.

I’m disappointed to have to add NimbleTV to the internet TV graveyard with ivi, Aereo (I remember when it was Bamboom), FilmOn (oh wait, FilmOn’s not dead), and Flo TV. There will always be demand for TV when and where we want to see it, through the internet. I look forward to the day when someone is allowed to sell us viewers what we want.