Philo, a new service of live, linear digital networks, will be cable-only with no sports networks, according to reports.
But beyond the “no-sports” channels, why would these mainstream cable networks be of interest to viewers — especially when this would include many other networks that consumers may not watch?
Five major cable-only network companies — Discovery Communication, Viacom, AMC Networks, Scripps Networks Interactive and A+E Networks — are starting the service, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Monthly subscriptions are expected to be less than $20 a month. Specific channel lineups have yet to be disclosed.
The problem for many of these cable companies is too many networks. Cable-network-centric companies have struggled to find a home for all their nets — which can be a roster of 12 to 20 channels deep — on new digital OTT platforms.
Have we forgotten that for decades, TV consumers demanded “a la carte” choice in picking individual cable networks — including sports networks?
This move seems to be spurred by what cable-network-centric groups don’t have: a broadcast network.
NBCUniversal, Fox Network Group, CBS Corp. and Disney-ABC Television own both cable and broadcast networks. They have made wide-ranging deals with Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, and others.
Those companies also have solid investments in sports programming — which have been somewhat controversial for many pay TV providers — cable, satellite, and telco — given the high license fees.
Major new digital services know the importance of those broadcast networks because they still get the widest possible number of potential viewers and the greatest reach.
All this can be confusing for the consumer — should they now buy a bare-bones Sling TV package and Philo — and Netflix? Perhaps the better combination would be YouTube TV and Philo.
Are TV consumers finally getting what they want? This isn’t the true “a la carte” functionality they envisioned. But that said, there are plenty of cheap prices being thrown around — $20- or $35-per-month packages.
Now the real work begins. Not for big TV network groups, but for consumers figuring out what products to buy.