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David Poland

By David Poland

Delivelution: DISH Throws In A New Variation

I wish it was more exciting.

DISH pushed out an all-in-one plan for DISH/Blockbuster that is meant to take advantage of Netflix’s changes and some degree of inertia in the cable industry. But all they are really doing is combining Blockbuster and DISH Network in one financial package.

Live video by Ustream

It’s interesting… and for new customers, it’s cheap… but there isn’t anything about this that doesn’t face the same exact problems that Netflix faces, in terms of streaming content acquisition costs moving forward. There is a huge amount of blurring of what content is available and how. For instance, there are twice as many films available on your computer than there is on your TV… even though the unique proposition is that DISH stream through their settop box. (or course, DirecTV streams through their box also… expect a push-back press release shortly.)

This event does more for the non-DISH future in two ways. First, it is a basic idea of how cable companies will be seeking to mix the streaming experience with the cable experience. Before long, the line will be as blurred as possible, much as AT&T has started offering products so you can make phone calls at home through the internet on the same phone that connects to their satellites when you don’t have internet service. The customer may save a few dollars (mostly the most heavy users), but AT&T, if this integrates with a large percentage of their customer base, the savings will be much more significant for AT&T. Companies with massive investments in cable infrastructure will want to keep pushing as much content as they can through the cable while allowing customers access to streaming via the web in an integrated way so you never think about which is which.

The second benefit is pricing pressure on DirecYV and cable competitors of DISH. At a time when studios are looking to squeeze more money out of their libraries, DISH’s effort to see to be all things to all people could keep price increases at bay. Of course, it would help if their ads weren’t such crap.

My standard for this starts with, “Would this make me or the average consumer consider changing services?” And on price point, the answer is “yes.” At the price they claim for the first year – if there is not a required 2 or more years to follow – I could go to DISH/Blockbuster after the football season ends for 6 months and then, reconnect with DirecTV for the next football season, and still save money on the year. On the other hand, what a pain in the ass. And we weren’t really using Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service when it was included in the $9 a month tab.

As for others… DISH has been a price point competitor for most of its existence. And it’s always been tagged with being an inferior service, fairly or not. What happens with those companies is that they tend to load up on fru-fru to attract customers. And if you don’t have specific needs outside of their content boundaries – and most people don’t – that may be very attractive. And if the Netflix stumbles have people seriously considering changing their mix of home delivery products… well, could get interesting.

Again, personally, when I see DirecTV giving away a $350 a year NFL package to new subscribers, I am not a happy DirecTV customer, paying for them to acquire new customers by being gouged by the company for a product they know is a must-have for NFL fans who are with DirecTV primarily to take advantage of that exclusive arrangement with the NFL…. while they also want to squeeze me for another 50 bucks to watch games on the iPad.

But is there enough in this new DISH package, when closely examined, to make people leap? It’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t know and I’m not sure that many people are going to leap into a new company’s arms. And you’ll notice that what DISH didn’t mention is how long their streaming deals with EPIX and STARZ are… or how much of their new package is really just On Demand content that is already readily available.

Not really a big moment, I don’t think.

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