The FCC’s tougher rules on Net Neutrality were held up by a court decision by Washington DC’s Circuit Court. The Net Neutrality ruling stated that the current Net Neutrality laws are allowed within the authority of the FCC and that the FCC did not violate its mandate in making the order. Signalling perhaps that high speed Internet would soon be considered more of a basic utility than a luxury item. The Streaming Advisor is also of the opinion that the Internet is not an entertainment vehicle like digital cable but is instead intricately connected to our daily lives in the modern world in any number of ways. 

Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch appeared happy with the ruling quoted in a story by Multichannel News saying “We are pleased that the FCC’s open internet order has been upheld,” said Lynch. “We have long supported the FCC’s efforts to protect an open internet, which is essential for driving innovation and empowering consumer choice.”

Sling TV was not the only Internet-based video service weighing in on the ruling with raves. Netflix was also happy to see the courts rule in favor of the FCC. saying “Today’s appeals court decision underscores what’s possible when millions of consumers unite to be heard and government officials listen.” See the full statement by Netflix here.

This is not likely the last we have heard of this ruling. It will probably continue to work its way up the court system but a precedent has now been set that could be very good for cord cutters and streaming fans who want to have more choice in their home entertainment options. Of course not all parties are happy with the ruling as many in the ISP community and related industries rail that this ruling will hurt consumers.If you would like to see the other side of the elation check out this story by Fierce Online Media here

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Sometimes I feel like I am affected too much by horrible things that happen in this world and especially my home. After September 11th I found myself at a loss to care about anything around me which was problematic considering that I was in college at the time. All I could think about was young people like myself (at the time) starting their dreams in New York. I thought about people on internships and families on the observation decks. Too many images flooded my mind and all I wanted to do was sit in a daze to the point where people had to pull me out.

I found myself again in that state early this morning reading story after story on Google News, CNN, Fox News and other sources. Those who know me well know that this is often when I get research, writing and video work done. Again all I wanted to do was make sense of something senseless.

We will get back to the work of talking about cord cutting and streaming as the day moves on. There is news to report. While we should all avoid paralysis over the tragedy I hope that you will all keep the murder of the people in Orlando at the front of your mind and not only that learn what happened and how in full so that as we move forward as a country we know what to worry about and what is simply nonsense. Ignore rumors and hate speech that will likely show up on your Facebook feeds and be vigilant in sourcing information that comes across your various feeds. And most importantly think of what you can do to help others. If not in Orlando then those around you. Times like these challenge us to think about what country and community mean. Let’s find our better angels. God bless those who are suffering loss and grief and know that we are with you.

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For all of the talk this week about Netflix’s deal with Disney finally coming into full effect in September, streaming fans should keep in mind that the Disney/Marvel/Pixar titles we only part of an overall strategy from Netflix to future proof the streaming network. While I think it is amusing that so many entertainment outlets finally realize that Netflix is a company that acts and maneuvers 5 steps ahead of its competition we have been reporting on Netflix’s long game for a year or more. This is why Netflix decided against the EPIX deal. In fact, the plan went into effect shortly after Netflix dropped its agreement with STARZ. But at the time, the over-reactionary blogosphere and many mainstream news outlets decided to write clickbait stories about the death of Netflix and the rise of Hulu and Amazon. So instead of simply recalling what has already been covered here and in other places, Let’s take a look at another piece of Netflix’s master plan. Netflix Original Series.

When Netflix first began planning for the future, which is about to be the present and announced an investment in original and exclusive content in the wake of dropping STARZ the idea of original streaming content was a novel one. While HBO and other cable networks had been building libraries of series for years streaming had been relegated making whatever it could get the rights to for the least amount of money available and in the case of many outlets, it still is. But when Netflix announced House Of Cards it was the first drop in a torrent. The service has quietly built a massive library of original titles. How massive?  Netflix currently has 137 original titles in its catalogue. If that number sounds too big log in and see for yourself. Right now there are 31 of its shows renewed for another season. At least 14 Netflix originals including Marvel’s Daredevil, are pending and those are just a percentage of the over 137 Netflix original productions available via the service. The streaming network’s stunning growth of originals was spurred by the company’s interest in exclusive content and a lack of interest in overpaying for content that could be found on multiple services.

Not all of Netflix’s originals are TV series, they include original movies, TV shows, documentaries and a growing library of one-shot specials featuring stand-up comedians. The dearth of programming on Netflix compared to the offerings from its rival Amazon is stunning. Currently, Amazon, which has been releasing its own original content including numerous pilots over the past 3 years has only 6 original series set to be renewed including the critically acclaimed Transparent. Many of the series the company has put out never went any further than the pilot episode, but to be fair that is part of Amazon’s model, which invites users to choose among numerous shows as to which will be made into a series.

Not all of Netflix’s investments are Emmy-nominated hits but they provide a strong dose of insight into what the company’s strategy is. Netflix does not value catalogues that offer the same thing Amazon and Hulu do. And it’s quite apparent that over 75 million customers don’t either. The original series though do include the ever growing Marvel Movie Universe based series that began with Daredevil and now include Jessica Jones, the upcoming Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the recently announce Punisher. Marvel titles are viewing gold at the moment, but Netflix’s originals are not all dark and brooding. The big red machine also has a major hit with The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and while it was panned by almost everyone Netflix also caught lightning in a bottle with Fuller House. Its investment in children’s programming which includes shows from, Puss In Boots, based on the character from the Shrek franchise and Veggie Tales which builds on the success of the popular Christian based series. We have not even delved into Netflix’s investment in original movies.

So as Netflix moves forward with its strategy and locks down the top 10 movies of the next few years which will undoubtedly be dominated by Marvel and the Starwars franchise it will be supplementing them with a quickly growing library of titles that nobody else has. We will see if it continues to win out going forward.

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Bit Torrent announced this week that it is launching a legit live streaming service featuring 13 niche programmers and “plans” to offer more substantial packages this summer. To borrow a phrase from the great Lee Corso, Not so fast my friend. Bit Torrent? Sure. I’m certain that all of the major networks will be chomping at the bits, no pun intended, to get into a formal partnership with a company that has made its name via a file sharing technology that allows people to download copyrighted content for viewing for free.

There are now two major operations, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue offering the ability to stream live programming and they are regularly building new partnerships. Another legitimate operation, Hulu which is owned by three major content owners is also rumored to be looking at a live TV streaming option as is Youtube. Neither of the two are confirmed at the moment by the respective companies so we have no reason to believe that they are truly on the way at the moment, but the landscape could get much larger before long. And yet Bit Torrent, basically the Napster of Video content expects to sign distribution deals with major carriers. Statements from Bit Torrent executives are nearly comical. BitTorrent Live VP of Media Erik Schwartz told Variety that they would carry HBO but they were in no hurry to carry them. I have a feeling that HBO is no hurry to be on the service since it already has its own streaming service HBO Now.

Bit Torrent may well carve some sort of space for itself for smaller providers in a way similar to Amazon’s new partnerships with other streaming providers. But again why would any self-respecting streaming service align itself with Bit torrent? We know that Bit Torrent was not officially launched to be used to ferry pirated content from one user to the next. But there is a reason that the word torrent is a synonym for stealing content to more than a few generations at this point. Whether the company likes it or not this is their brand. Ask yourself, would you buy Michael Vick branded dog food? Would MSNBC sponsor The Rush Limbaugh memorial Golf Tournament? How about attending church services at the All New (non-apocalyptic) David Koresh Ministries. I really doubt it. And I furthermore really doubt that HBO, or any serious broadcaster would give an offer from Bit Torrent a second look. are

Over Three years ago I began laying the groundwork for The Streaming Advisor because I noticed something. The media landscape was about to change. At the time, there was a barely reported narrative about how some people were experimenting with using antennas for TV and adding Netflix via the Nintendo Wii or the “Roku Box”. Cord cutting was barely considered a thing. It was just cheapskates or people who were out of work trying to save money during a down economy according to those at the big media companies.

Now three short years later things are very different. The cable giants and pay TV world fully acknowledge that there are cord-cutters but I think that they still misunderstand exactly what the industry is dealing with. There are a lot of people who call themselves cord-cutters but they are hardly one group. And how and how well the pay TV industry and the streaming services understand who they are dealing with will help choose winners in the new media landscape.

First what is not a cord cutter
Some people think that because someone likes streaming that they are a cord cutter. they look at Roku sales or Netflix subscription numbers and say “look at all the people cutting cable!” This ignores the millions of people who subscribe to one streaming service or another in addition to their cable package and that population is vast.

The Different types Of Cord Cutters

Moved on cuttersThe moved ons

These are people who have had cable for years and realized that as the bills have gone up they rarely turn on the TV for anything other than the local news. Some of them were cord-cutters before it was hipster chic. There are no kids in the house anymore to watch Nickelodeon, the premium channels don’t have movies that they enjoy anymore and they are not sports fans. These are the “reading is better for you” crowd. They are not counter-cultural as much as done. Let’s face it, what is considered entertainment changes over time and TV and movies do not look like they did 20, 40, 50 years ago. And given a choice between keeping the air conditioner going during a hot summer or in some cases the heat (we all know those people) and paying a $200.00 monthly bill they walk away from it never to come back. They might give Netflix a look when their grandson stops by though. Not all of these people are elderly. They are just people who don’t care to keep up with the Kardashians or for that matter the Lannisters. They are not going to be walking through that door cable.

There are some people who decide that cable is too expensive and as long as they are not going to pay for cable then they should not pay for anything other than their Internet access. But as opposed to depending on antennas and just deciding to change their entertainment they choose instead to grab all of it from the Internet for free. Some claim that art should be free to the world and that anything that comes on TV or appears on a screen is art. Some concentrate on the money associated with studios and the actors involved in the various movies and TV shows that they consume and feel that because say an actor or say Warner Brothers is already rich that they won’t suffer from not making money off of them. They consider it an act of social justice. Some even call those who pay for services of any type as suckers. They utilize torrents a bevy of Android-based apps (remember Popcorn Time) and third party applications designed to work with the media server program Kodi, which the creators of kodi have said was not the intention of their open source program. For more on that issue see our story on that topic here. Pirates are not likely to be convinced to try out any service that costs more than zero until the means to get content without paying for it dries up.

Budget cuttersBudget Hawks
Budget hawks are the type of cord-cutters who really got the ball rolling. They are the people who looked at rising prices for pay TV services and decided to take a look at how much TV they could watch without $160.00 bills. They like television and tend to lean towards substitutes like Netflix, Hulu and antennas and will give things a look. They are the ones who say things like “I wish I could just get the 10-20 channels that I really watch and not pay for 200 channels that I don’t. They may even be open to getting back into the pay TV culture if offered a package that could match up with their needs. These are the people that Sling TV, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon have built their video businesses around. They want to be able to talk about the show that everyone is watching but choose to check them out any number of ways from buying a series to stream or watching the next day etc. But the days of price gouging services that raise the bills on committed customers are probably over.

Black HoleThe Cord-Nevers
This is the group that will be very interesting to watch over the next 10-15 years. Cord-nevers are young, busy and have bills to pay. They never bought in on the bundle. Maybe it was that they matured when every show was a reality show. Maybe their parents cut cable during the recession and while they were in college they did not develop an interest in current TV. But what did happen was streaming exploded as they were maturing. So it was cool when they were in school. These people watch TV shows though. Lots of them. A realization of this finally forced the industry to stop calling people who did not pay for cable “Non TV Households” Some don’t own TV’s and watch shows via everything from large desktop computers to cell phones. But others are buying the big TV’s too. They just never bothered to make that appointment between 9am and Thursday. They became accustomed to binging TV or even waiting till things were on Hulu. So far nobody has done a study to find out exactly what impact the job market has made on TV viewing habits but I believe it has. Because considering the number of younger workers both college-educated and those without secondary education who work more than one job in today’s world they would be cheating themselves by paying for a live TV service that they can never be home to watch. If you can never ever see a show unless it is on delay that there is no reason to pay for a Cable package and DVR when services like Hulu are out there for $7.99 or even just waiting until it is available on Netflix and or Amazon etc. These guys use almost every means to get their content from pirating, paid streaming services and everything in between including password sharing. Password sharing is using either a friend or parents password to view content that they are paying for. This goes on with everything from Netflix to TV everywhere services sponsored by cable companies.

As important a medium as TV has been in the US it is a learned habit. For some folks can’t fall asleep unless there is one on. Others can’t imagine a dinner where they have to talk to, gasp, each other. I enjoyed many tuna casserole or fried chicken dinners watching Gomer Pile, Full House, Saved By The Bell or whatever happened to come on at 5:30 every weekday. This is why the cord-nevers are so important to pay attention to. If they continue to be cord-nevers so might their children. And if that happens the TV industry can set a doomsday clock for the bundle. Because for year, the industry hoped that most people would get cable again when they “grew up”. Well, watch out because they have.

Is that it?
There are other subgroups of cord cutters but in general, those are the camps that have observed through four years research, conversations with insiders and interactions with readers and face to face conversations with people across the country.

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The post cable days may be another generation away but the post cable company box days are fast upon us. While subscribers will still have the choice to rent a cable box from their provider, a new executive order by President Obama paves the way for customers to choose other third party providers for their set top box needs. And there is one company poised to take that opportunity and run with it. TiVo.

TiVio, which was recently bought out by software and content discovery based company Rovi, will still hold on to the TiVo branding. This is a good choice for the new ownership considering the brand loyalty the TiVo name engenders from its customers and basic familiarity for consumers.

Great Interface with added functionality
TiVo already had an easy to use interface. But Rovi is a company that prided itself on content discovery and even cloud-based services. The combination of the two companies patents and technology could lead to TiVo Boxes with physical and cloud-based DVR’s that offer a wide variety of apps and even improve your ability to find what to watch on a wide range of traditional linear TV channels. In many ways the sorts of services the two companies offered separately complement each other very well. The difference is that instead of Rovi simply developing technology for clients it will be using the same know-how to develop its own retail product.

We wrote recently that using set-top-boxes from other parties could be troublesome for a number of users who may miss the simplicity and support of the traditional cable providers. And while that is still the case, this kind of move in the market can at least provide consumers with a viable alternative that can even provide streaming options that are in most cases unavailable via most cable providers.

What might they do with this combination?

For more on Rovi click here to be taken to the company’s page
For more on TiVo click here to be taken to the company’s page

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When the news broke that the cable industry would no longer have a monopoly on set-top boxes to provide cable services a number of consumers cheered the news in the hopes that soon their favorite streaming boxes will be able to substitute for the bulky boxes they have been using for service. While there are mechanisms in place that may allow that to happen like standalone apps and other innovations that may come down the line there are probably a few reasons why both set-top box makers and cable providers are not excited about the future. Should consumers be concerned what may be coming down the line? Will Third Party Set-Top Boxes For Cable Cause More Problems Than They Solve?

Third party applications and equipment can be a major issue when it comes to troubleshooting. As much as someone might dislike that say their cable modem or set-top box often come from the cable company you cannot deny that when there is some sort of delivery problem the fact that the equipment can be accessed, explored and reset from remote locations is very helpful. When I have problems with my cable modem and call TWC we can talk about the problem in the same way. “What lights are on?” “What color is the light on the bottom?” “Is it blinking or solid?” This is why, even though I know I get charged for the modem, that I don’t have my own. Because I don’t want to be responsible for fixing it, changing security settings and so on. A perfect example is after a recent trip to New York City we returned to find our Wireless internet connection was disabled. Our devices could no longer see our network. I called TWC and they reset the system, renamed the network, logged in a new password and made sure all of my devices were again connected in about 20 minutes. I can’t imagine how annoying it would have been to trouble shoot everything myself when all I wanted to do was have a coke after a 4-day trip.

Are existing set-top boxes built to handle the service?
When Netflix does not work even though the internet is in full working order the problem is likely one of two things. Either the device you are accessing the service on is not working correctly or there is a problem with the service on the provider end. When I had a problem with my Netflix using a Roku last year I was able to call Netflix. I explained the problem and they knew that there was an existing problem for Roku and fixed it in minutes. Netflix has apps for seemingly everything and is even integrated into some cable boxes these days. But regardless of the number of partners it has the relationship is easy enough to figure out. Now let’s say that every cable provider was responsible for providing an app or some other delivery system for every set-top box available that allowed for full live TV with a full cable grid, on demand capability and so on just like they do on the devices they currently use. We are not talking about an app. It is an ecosystem. And they equipment currently used is built to do this. Is a Roku 1? What about an Amazon Fire TV or a random Android box? No. They are designed to deliver apps. If something is built as a workaround it may provide some level of service but would it work the same on all of the platforms?

When it’s broken where is it broken?
With the current model, providers can tell if their box is not working. They know how to fix it. They can train a staff with less than stunning technical knowhow to walk customers through steps in order to correct a problem without having to be familiar with 10 different devices and operating systems. If people begin to access cable on multiple devices through multiple means it’s quite possible that figuring out a problem is going to be a major headache for all involved. Is something malfunctioning with your modem, is it an app, does the app need to be updated, which Fire TV box are you using the first gen or the second one, does your Roku have a 2 or a 3 on top of it, are you connected with HDMI or the red yellow and white cords, what firmware do you have? The questions can go on forever. And many people are completely unable to answer them because they don’t understand what they have. Anyone who has been drafted by a parent or grandparent understands what I mean here. Right now it can be as easy as the realization that equipment needs to be replaced, an appointment is made and a trained tech comes to a home and installs the equipment correctly and it’s over. In the brave new world of third-party access who knows how a problem gets resolved.


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Why do these services keep launching?

Updated from 4/26/2016
Companies that think they are going to carve their own path in streaming by taking their content off of Netflix Amazon and other major service and starting their own channels are misguided at best. Even large ones. The recent announcement by Turner of a new channel “Filmstruck” in cooperation with the Criterion Collection is a reach. Why? Because of a couple of things. The market for small arthouse films is not a large one. How many movie theaters in any given city cater to this kind of cinema? As much as people might even try to pretend to like intellectual fare at the movies take a look at the top-grossing films each year. You will not see many that were shot in black and white and require subtitles. Nope, its explosions, one-liners and love stories that rule the roost in film world when it comes to outright profitability. Every time a new service launches with a dearth of essentially unheard of movies it dubs itself as a champion of “Film Buffs” It’s like a badge of honor to make up for the fact that its content is unpopular. But the truth is this. If there was a major demand for the content from the Criterion Collection than Hulu would not have dropped the contract with the arthouse content provider in favor of EPIX. Since it made the move it has grown its reach.

A new service built around old movies?
Turner classic movies has an audience. That is why it has been a staple of the cable world for so long. In fact before it, AMC (American Movie Classics) paved the way before becoming the home to blood and guts. But its audience does not tend to gravitate to streaming options. It’s an older demographic that is far better suited to cable than it is over the top delivery. I believe that many people can benefit from cord cutting or even enjoy streaming along with their current cable package but I have definitely recommended that some people who have reached out to me stick with the current set up based on their grasp of modern delivery methods.

Already enough “Film Buff” Services
Fandor, Tribeca Short Stage and even its own Warner Archive are just a few of the services competing in the same demographic. I suppose once the service is ready for launch Warner Archive will bite the dust. Others like Prescreen could not even hack it for a full year of service. Putting a lot of energy into being a service for film buffs is like starting an athletic shoe company that specializes in turquoise equestrian gear. Yes somewhere there is a jockey looking everywhere for that brightly colored belt or shoes, but once you reach a portion of the audience how much can you possibly grow from there.

Users Do Not Want half a dozen services
Has anyone in the industry ever thought about why Netflix is huge? It is because it gives the average viewer enough to watch regardless of what it does not have. Sure a movie or series will drop off never to be seen again. Sometimes it is back within the month via a different contract. But the thing is that people like to keep their bills low when it comes to TV. While many might use Netflix and Hulu at the same time to combine original fare with current shows the likelihood that someone will maintain subscriptions to multiple indy film websites or apps is entirely unlikely. Providers have to understand that like a teacher who feels 45 minutes of homework is not too much for a student to handle (regardless of whether 4 other teachers think the same thing at the same time) users do not want to nickel and dime themselves with $9.99 for Netflix, $5.00 for a horror movie channel, $4.99 for an indie film channel etc. The only hope for Turner is that its new service squashes and absorbs the current crop of competitors to form a more all-encompassing selection. Filmstruck, enjoy the honeymoon in the blogosphere that inevitably accompanies a slow news day. Just try to remember that a number of others have tread in those waters only to drown.

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Did it ever occur to these Einsteins who follow the streaming world that Netflix does not have any interest in matching Hulu blow for blow? It has always been a different type of service with a different focus.

In a 2013 story from  Gizmodo  Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said “The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us”. As it is the two entities sort of met in the middle.

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Blogger, Dave Zats is reporting on a possible product called AirTV which would be expected to allow users to receive OTA signals remotely while also somehow integrating Sling Television into the equation. Without any official word from Echostar or Sling Television as to how the product would work or if it, in fact, exists we don’t even really know its function. Slingbox, which is an unrelated service and device allows users to watch their own cable packages remotely. Is there such a product on the way?

Who is making it?
Is this product actually from Sling TV or even Sling Box? If it were an official Sling Box product wouldn’t a name like Sling Box OTA make a lot more sense from a branding perspective than giving it an entirely separate designation and website? Notice Tivo did not release a totally different branded box when it decided on an OTA version of its DVR. This may be less a Sling Box and more some knock off product that will never see the light of day at any respectable retail outlet. To be honest it looks like something you would find at a flea market.

What problem does it solve?
Do people want to watch OTA broadcasts remotely? Yes. Does something exist that will allow this? YES. There are

The product description should arouse s bit of suspicion. Thanks for including the plug though.
The product description should arouse s bit of suspicion. Thanks for including the plug though.

already multiple products on the market that allow users to remotely tune into signals from wireless devices. Tablo and HD Homerun for instance allow for remote access of their devices for both live TV and recorded content. And let’s not forget Tivo OTA. And with Sling TV’s multiple apps users would be able to access Sling TV from any place and almost any device regardless.

Would it be a standalone streamer?
Looking at the pictures for this device it appears that there is a concept for a standalone streamer in place. Why would the company parent company behind Sling TV invite people to download the Sling TV app to a device they made? This should raise red flags as to authenticity of the proposed device. Imagine an Apple product that advertised “Download iTunes for Movies and Music”

Box could confuse customers
Is it a Sling Box? Is it a Sling TV Box? Is it “Sling’s” version of the Roku? Do I have to have this box in order to get Sling Television? Is this a path that Sling Television or even Echostar wants to go down?

Box Better have a Good Tuner
If there is such a product on the way I would implore the design team to use the best tuner possible in the box. Having a cheap TV tuner could cripple the entire functionality of the box from the start. If users are unable to get a consistent picture with the device it will sink like a lead balloon.

Antenna performance could inadvertently hurt Sling Television’s brand
Consumers often blame the wrong party when something does not work. Netflix gets blamed when someone tries to watch it on an old phone. Hulu gets slammed by customers with 5 MB per second internet for being choppy. So imagine the kinds of complaints people will lay at the feet of Sling Television if their antenna is ill-equipped to pull in signals or mounted incorrectly or in a place with too many trees etc.

Pictures imply that Sling Television App is an Addon not the operating system
Some writers have concluded without ever using the theoretical product that the device will have an interface built on top of the Sling TV interface that includes OTA channels in the programming section. That is a great leap if you ask me. Consider this. Sling Television’s offerings are essentially are cable channels and Internet-based content. Actually integrating OTA signals in the same interface as digital Internet cable based channels may be a large undertaking. At the moment there is not a model for this.

Box looks low end 
The design of the box as shown on Zat’s site do not look impressive. Not having had a chance to handle the hardware myself I can hardly be sure. But its build is reminiscent of an RMA box from China. RMA boxes are typically Android boxes aimed at sellers who then plop some kind of firmware in place and slap a brand on it. there is no branding on the box pictured and the metallic underside looks very unfinished when compared to mainstream set-top boxes on the market. Considering the investment Dish has made in their own set-top boxes like the “Joey” this does not add up.

Our guess
This is not a leaked product from Dish, Echostar or Sling Media. There are far too many things about the product that do not match up. From the shabby design, the lack of Sling TV integration, the new product name (unless it is a codename) and the whole idea that it is a separate box in the first place when the whole rollout for Sling TV in the first place was based on multiple devices. It would all seem backwards to now put out a standalone box. But of course that didn’t stop Walmart from releasing the Vudu Spark (yes a dongle that just allowed users to add Vudu)  last year to apparently settle a dare. Netflix could have released a Netflix box years ago and wisely decided against it. The box spun off into Roku actually. On the surface this product looks like a Chinese manufactured Android-based box with a tuner. We will keep an eye on this story if it goes past today.

Sling TV officials declined to comment on the speculation.