Dish Said to Target Summer Debut for Internet-TV Service

Leading Race to Offer Young Consumers More Affordable Pay-TV

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Dish already has a deal to stream ABC, ESPN and the Disney Channel
Dish already has a deal to stream ABC, ESPN and the Disney Channel Credit: ABC

Dish Network is targeting a summer debut for its internet-TV service in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.

Dish is telling programmers, including Comcast's NBC Universal, that a late summer release date is possible, said the people, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private. Dish, the second-largest U.S. satellite-TV operator, already signed up Walt Disney Co. for the service last month. A&E Television Networks, Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting and CBS Corp. also have spoken with Dish about internet-TV rights, several people said.

Charlie Ergen's Dish is trying to be the first to sell a full package of live-streaming channels -- similar to those offered with a cable subscription -- over the web. An internet-based TV package would give consumers a new option beyond cable, satellite and phone companies. Dish is targeting 18-to-34-year-olds who only want to pay $20 or $30 a month to watch video on smartphones and tablets instead of a traditional TV set.

The largest content providers have placed several conditions on Dish's service before they'll agree to deals, according to two people familiar with the matter. At least two of the four major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- must be included in the service, and at least 10 of the highest-rated cable networks must also be part of the package. Through its agreement with Disney, Dish has already signed up ABC, as well as cable channels ESPN and Disney Channel.

Following its agreement with Disney, Dish approached NBC Universal for a similar deal, according to a person familiar with the matter. Because of a regulatory agreement when Comcast acquired the company from General Electric Co., NBC Universal has to provide comparable programming "on terms that are economically equivalent" to those of rivals.

The difficulty so far has been concluding what constitutes an equivalent agreement based on Dish's deal with Disney, the person said. That will determine which NBC Universal networks are included in the internet bundle, another person said. The company owns the NBC broadcast network as well as cable channels such as USA Network, Bravo and E!.

Bob Toevs, a Dish spokesman, declined to comment on the timing of the Englewood, Colorado-based company's online TV plans.

Introducing the service by late summer would make it available to consumers before the start of the next broadcast-TV season in September.

Dish already streams bundles of international TV channels over the internet through its DishWorld product. Most international packages are available for $14.95 a month, according to the company's website.

The Dish product would be the first of its kind in the U.S. Intel Corp. failed to offer the service last year and sold its technology to Verizon Communications in January. Sony is also attempting to offer so-called over-the-top TV and reached a preliminary agreement in August to stream Viacom's programming, a person with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

AT&T said today that it plans to introduce an online-TV service by the end of this year, part of a pact with Chernin Group to invest more than $500 million to draw consumers who are flocking to Internet video.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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