It’s going to be at least five years before ESPN releases its own service that will allow people to stream the network online, without paying for a traditional cable or satellite subscription.
That’s what Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, ESPN’s parent company, said in an interview on CNBC on Monday.
But if you’re a SportsCenter fan, or you want to watch Monday Night Football or Sunday Night Baseball, there’s already a way to get ESPN without paying for a huge bundle of channels, signing a contract, waiting for the technician to show up, or renting expensive equipment.
It’s through Sling TV, an online live TV streaming service that the satellite provider Dish launched earlier this year, and it costs $US20 per month.
Sling TV isn’t perfect. It suffered a high-profile outage during Final Four, it doesn’t have a DVR, you can’t pause and rewind on many channels, and the on-demand options are limited.
But it’s a very inexpensive and convenient way to get ESPN as well as some of the other top-rated cable networks, without signing your life away and worrying that your rates will go up after a year.
Sling is targeting the growing number of “cord cutters,” people who don’t pay for TV and instead watch video online through the streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Amazon.
The number of households that pay for broadband internet but don’t pay for TV has increased by more than 20 per cent in two years, to 11.7 million in the first quarter of this year, according to SNL Kagan, a media research firm.
Many of these cord cutters have grown up with apps and services that are easy to subscribe to and easy to quit, which is not the experience cable and satellite companies are known for. And that’s what Sling went for when developing its product.
Sling is an app that works on smartphones, tablets, PCs, and TVs through streaming boxes like Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV, and because it’s streamed online, it’s available to anyone with a broadband subscription.
The service comes with 22 other channels in addition to ESPN, including ESPN2, TBS, TNT, AMC, Adult Swim, and History. You can also pay an additional $US5 per month for genre specific packages, for more sports, kids, movie, news, and lifestyle channels. You can also subscribe to HBO for $US15 a month, which is the same price HBO charges for a subscription to its new standalone service HBO Now.
Expect to see more live TV streaming services. Apple is reportedly working on one that could be released as early as this fall, and Verizon is expected to launch a “mobile-first” video service later this summer.
But for now, Sling is the best way to get ESPN without paying for an expensive cable subscription.
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