In efforts to compete with streaming TV services, some networks are looking to make their own “skinny” TV bundles. At the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Telecom conference in Boston this week, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish explained that the company is in talks with at least one multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) to be part of an entertainment-only, slimmed-down TV bundle that would cost between $10 and $20 per month.
This type of package would include entertainment channels only and exclude sports entirely, gearing it toward customers who want a cheaper TV bundle and don’t care about sports programming. Bakish criticized current TV streaming offerings for not being “transformational” since they still require customers to pay for content they don’t want, namely sports networks. According to Bakish, the true transformational plan will be one that provides customers with “a new entry segment at a much lower price point” with optional sports programming.
Live sports is a huge deal for most over-the-top streaming services, as it is for social media outlets that have been focusing more on live video. Services like YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV highlight the number of sports networks included in their $35 to $40 price tags, while Twitter and Facebook have obtained rights to stream various sports broadcasts over social media in the past couple years.
But networks like Viacom and Discovery, which don’t offer live sports, see the appeal of an entertainment-only package for customers who don’t care about sports. Viacom and Discovery are also not part of YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV so they, and other networks like AMC, are looking for a new way to increase subscribers as more customers move away from traditional cable. Offering an entertainment-only “skinny” bundle through MVPDs could attract customers who want quality TV shows without the added fees of bundled sports programming.
However, it’s not that easy to create a slimmed-down TV bundle like this. According to a Bloomberg report, these bundles could violate deals that companies have with cable and satellite providers. Typically, those deals require networks owned by companies like Disney (most often sports giant ESPN) to be included in the most popular TV bundles, or for a certain amount of subscribers to receive their programming, ensuring that the widest pool of TV viewers are exposed to those networks. Two years ago, Disney sued Verizon after the company tried to offer a package called Custom TV, which was similar to the skinny bundles being talked about now. Viacom and other companies are in talks with MVPDs to provide slimmed-down TV bundles, and we could see one introduced before the end of the year.