After months of speculation, a group of cable programmers are close to launching a virtual cable package that will focus on entertainment channels.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that A+E Networks, Viacom, Discovery, Scripps and AMC Networks are banding together to form a broadband-delivered bundle of TV networks that will cost around $20 per month. The venture is called Philo, named after the San Francisco-based start-up which has up until now been primarily working on a streaming platform that targeted U.S. college students.
Details on the new bundle, which is set to go into Beta, are scarce. But presumably it would at the very least include the major entertainment networks of the partner companies. While that it is an impressive list of channels, it seems less likely to include the entertainment networks owned by media companies that have large sports interests. ABC, Fox, NBCUniversal all have been reluctant to allow any of the growing number of skinny bundles to offer a non-sports package of their channels. Which means that in order to get ABC's Disney, Disney Jr., Disney XD and Freeform, companies have to also take the various ESPN networks. That would mean Philo would also be unable to include NBCUniversal's Bravo, Oxygen, Syfy and USA or Fox's FX, FXX, NatGeo and NatGeo Wild.
Turner Networks is a slightly different problem. While it doesn't have a sports-only network, it airs NBA and other sports on TNT. That in part accounts for the network's high subscriber fee paid by cable companies. That fee (which is generally over $1 per subscriber), makes it difficult to include as part of a sub-$20 skinny bundle. Especially when any deal with Turner would also likely include TBS, Cartoon Network and perhaps CNN.
A couple of smaller programming players appear to be left out of this deal, most notably Crown Media, which owns Hallmark and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Other smaller entertainment channels which might arguably fit into an entertainment-only skinny bundle including Hubbard Broadcasting-owned Reelz.