Dish Network — after its worst-ever quarterly subscriber loss for the second quarter of 2016 — is looking to appeal to cost-conscious consumers with Flex Pack, a so-called skinny bundle with about 50 channels starting at $29.99 per month.
The No. 2 satcaster’s new plan eliminates ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision and other local TV channels from the baseline package, as well as ESPN and other sports nets, and news cablers Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Instead, customers can add those via individual themed add-on packs, which cost $4-$10 extra per month.
It’s not a la carte pay-TV, but it does give customers more choice in how they assemble a lineup tailored to their tastes. But it’s not a new idea, and TV network programmers have chafed against the approach because it stands to cut into their household reach by pushing many of their channels to optional tiers.
Verizon last year rolled out Custom TV, structured in the same way as Dish’s Flex Pack plan. As a result ESPN sued Verizon, arguing it violated the terms of the sports giant’s distribution agreement by excluding its nets from the core package, while Disney, Fox Sports and NBCUniversal also complained about Verizon’s Custom TV. Verizon and ESPN settled their spat in May.
It’s not clear if Dish has cleared Flex Pack with programming partners. ESPN reps did not comment on the satcaster’s move.
Dish’s Flex Pack is $29.99 monthly without any add-on bundles, or $39.99 per month with one add-on channel pack.
“Our customers are frustrated with having to pay for hundreds of channels, most of which they never watch,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish executive VP of marketing, programming and media sales. “Flex Pack provides a level of flexibility and control that brings our customers closer to the ideal of fully tailoring their channel lineup.”
The Flex Pack core package’s 50 channels include AMC, TNT, USA, HGTV, E!, Cartoon Network, History, A&E, CNN, Discovery, TBS, Food Network, FX and TV Land.
The channel packs include the following:
- Locals Pack ($10 per month): CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, as well as Univision and others based on the local market
- Variety Pack ($6 per month): Investigation Discovery, Lifetime Movie Network, Freeform, Bravo, BET, Crime & Investigation
- Kids Pack ($10 per month): Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Animal Planet, Nick Jr., Disney XD, Nicktoons, Boomerang, Baby TV
- National Action Pack ($10 per month): ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, Velocity, AXS TV, Fuse, TV Games Network, TVG2, Universal HD
- News Pack ($10 per month): Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Weather Channel, CNBC, FOX Business Network, BBC World News, Bloomberg, TheBlaze
- Heartland Pack ($6 per month): Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, GSN, OWN, Uplifting Entertainment, Discovery Family, Baby TV, PIXL, RFD-TV, Ride TV, FamilyNet
- Regional Action Pack ($10 per month): In-market regional sports network(s), Big Ten Network, FS2, Longhorn Network, Outside TV, Pac-12 Network, SEC Network, World Fishing Network, ESPN Buzzer Beater
- Outdoor Pack ($4 per month): Outdoor Channel, Outside TV, Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network
Premium channels like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and Starz are also available as add-ons for additional fees.
Flex Pack includes a standard Dish receiver, free installation and a two-year price guarantee for new customers. For an additional $10 per month, new customers can upgrade their equipment to the Hopper 3. Customers must enroll in online billing and auto-pay programs to be eligible for the offers.