Sorry Cord-Cutters, Internet TV Probably Won’t Be Very Cheap

Bad news for anyone hoping that the online pay-TV services in the offing from Sony and Dish would be a cheap way to get the cable experience. Two new reports seem to indicate that you may not be saving all that much when these highly anticipated services launch.

No one at Dish or Sony is talking on the record about pricing for their services, but sources can’t seem to keep their traps shut.

On Friday, Variety reported that the Dish online package would start at $20-30/month.

At first glance, that seems like a good deal, but there are so many question marks about what you’d actually get for that price.

Dish has made a deal that gives it streaming rights for Disney-owned networks, which includes ABC. But only eight ABC stations in the country are owned-and-operated by the network, meaning you won’t get your local news if your ABC affiliate is not owned by the network. And even the owned-and-operated stations may not be part of the Dish deal.

And the Disney/ABC deal is the only one Dish has made with any of the major networks, meaning you will need to use an antenna if you want to watch broadcast TV. If you live in an area with bad TV coverage, too bad.

No one also knows if Disney’s ESPN — or any of its countless offshoots — are part of the Dish package. ESPN accounts for at least $5 in most folks’ cable bills, so if Dish paid something similar for its online service, that doesn’t leave much room for other programming.

The $20-30 price might also just be a starter package with minimal content. It’s possible that you’d have to pay extra for ABC and any other networks that might later be added.

Then the NY Post wrote on Sunday that the initial pricing for Sony’s online TV package could be as high as $80/month, but another source says it should be more in the $60-65 range.

Sony has not yet made public any deals it might have with the broadcast networks, so the current programming cap in Sony’s hat is its deal with Viacom, which means it will include basic cable faves like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike, BET, Vh1, CMT, and those channels’ assorted spinoffs.

Thing is, most people can get those channels for the same or less price. And while you can get cable without paying for Internet, you’ll still have to pay for broadband service — most likely from the cable company you hate — for either the Dish or Sony service.

And without proper net neutrality rules in place, cable companies can use everything at their disposal to slow down Dish and Sony signals to end-users. Or they could charge Sony and Dish a toll for “improved” access to customers, which would then have to be passed on in the monthly bill.

While consumers dream of a day when they can cherry-pick only the stations they want, it’s unlikely to happen any time in the near future.

Too few companies control too many channels, so if a pay-TV service wants Comedy Central, it inevitably has to make a deal with Viacom that includes its other channels in a bundle. A deal for ESPN will inevitably include various Disney channels. The same goes with Comcast/NBC Universal, which owns and bundles up Bravo, SyFy, USA, Oxygen, and others. And let’s not forget the large slate of channels in the hands of Discovery.

A la carte cable for consumers can only happen after pay-TV companies no longer have to buy channels in bundles; and honestly, it probably won’t even happen then.

[via GigaOm]