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Week In Review: Dish Doesn’t Need No Stinkin’ RSNs, Discovery Likely To Get Swole And Flixy

Dish Doesn’t Need No Stinkin’ RSNs

As many of you know, Dish (and by extension its vMVPD Sling) have been beefing with Sinclair about the cost of the Fox RSNs that Sinclair bought. 

Many thought this would turn out to be a bad move on Dish CEO Charlie Ergen’s part, but that has turned out not to be the case: Dish actually added a net 148K pay TV subscribers (214K from Sling) in the same quarter that AT&T lost 1.3 million subscribers. 

Why It Matters

Said beef has been going on since July, so it’s likely that any of the football, baseball, basketball or hockey fans who were very invested in watching every single one of their favorite team’s games have left Dish. 

And it turns out there weren’t a whole lot of them.

Which means a couple of things:

1. RSNs no longer have the sort of sizable fan bases they once had.

2. Dish will be able to negotiate a much better deal with Sinclair for the RSNs now that the “boy will you lose a whole lot of subscribers” argument is no longer valid.

3. Rich Greenfield is feeling super vindicated.

At some level this isn’t all that surprising. Few people have the time to watch a two or three hour game most nights and with all of the various highlight services and digital means of following along, watching the actual game becomes a lot less important.

(To wit, I will often follow a Brooklyn Nets game on Twitter or the NBA app and tune in to watch the end of the 4th quarter if the game is still close. And I suspect I am not alone.)

And that matters because the “people won’t give up pay TV or switch to super-skinny bundles because sports” argument just got a whole lot weaker.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an RSN, you might want to start doing some market research, figuring out who your subscribers are and why, and doing everything you possibly can to shore up those relationships.

If you’re a team owner, you’re probably locked into contracts for years, but at some point you may want to consider launching your own OTT app.

If you’re a pro sports league, this is a really good reason to think about your OTT options as well.

And if you’re an MVPD or vMVPD, you probably owe Charlie Ergen a thank you tweet.

2. Discovery Likely To Get Swole and Flixy

During Discovery’s recent earnings call, CEO Dave Zaslav let slip that they were looking into building their own OTT app which would be home to all of their vast library of Discovery and Scripps (HGTV et al) programming.  It was notable because Discovery has thus far been cautious about jumping into the OTT pool. Beyond their investment in Philo (yes, they still exist) anyway.

Why It Matters

Discovery’s programming is well suited to OTT in that it’s largely evergreen. Other than hardcore fans, few people will be aware that they are watching a 2016 episode of Property Brothers versus a 2019 one. And Discovery’s own programming, say, documentaries about sea horses, are relatively timeless as well.

That’s good news for Discovery as we suspect that most people are going to be overwhelmed by the amount of original “must see” type programming that all the other Flixes are churning out, and that they’re also getting tired of the second tier sitcom reruns and old movies on the FASTs and so things like all 20+ years of House Hunters is going to be quite welcome. 

Which is the other good news for Discovery: they own most of their programming and their more popular shows have been on for years and years and years and thus have vast libraries.

They’ll likely need to be ad supported though, because as someone (can’t remember who) recently pointed out, if you take the ads out of many HGTV shows, you’re left with about 9 minutes of actual show, given their liberal use of flashbacks to what you just saw before the commercial break, a very cost effective (from a production POV) way to pad out the half hour.

So there’s that.

But more important, there’s the fact that once DiscoveryFlix launches, every major network group will have its own OTT app. Which means that at some point in the next five to 10 years it is quite possible that traditional broadcast and cable TV will just fade away, that the broadcasters and larger cable companies will decide that the amount of money they can make from running their linear streams on their own OTT apps is greater than the amount of money they can get from carriage and retrans fees.

Stranger things have happened.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re Discovery, welcome to the party. As a side note, we think putting linear streams in your app would be a great idea, you know, like a Food stream or a Home Makeover stream, the sort of thing that starts from the beginning when you hit play and pauses till the next time you come back. That would give people one less choice to deal with at a time when many viewers are overwhelmed with analysis paralysis from all of the new programming and new options for viewing.

(And if analysis paralysis is part of your life, check out this very funny video from YouTuber Drew Gooden.)

If you’re an MVPD or vMVPD, this should probably worry you—it’s one more reason people might cut the cord or at the very least, severely shave it. (It might be time to become an OTT aggregator.)

If you’re one of the other Flixes, probably no need to worry. DiscoveryFlix will likely be an “in addition to” ad-supported Flix, not an “instead of” subscription one.

If you’re a consumer this is likely going to be a positive development though it’s likely to be a year or so before it launches.