Bloomberg reported over the weekend that Dish Network is in private discussions with networks, including Viacom's MTV, Scripps (owner of Food Network and HGTV), and Univision, about streaming their channels over the Internet. The Dish service would break up the programming bundles that result in cable and satellite providers having to pay for channels they don't want in order to receive the ones that they do want.
Sports channels such as ESPN are reportedly responsible for driving up the costs of higher-tier cable and satellite channel packages. Dish's Internet offering would allow viewers to purchase cheaper channels and forgo the more-expensive sports channels. Bloomberg's article states that "[a] central question is whether consumers want smaller bundles that lack sports programming." An ESPN spokesperson told Bloomberg that cheaper packages that don't include sports programming are not very popular. However, those cheaper packages often lack popular non-sports channels, so it may not be lack of sports that causes these packages to be unpopular.
Bloomberg doesn't say that their unnamed sources specifically mentioned Roku as the vehicle for Dish's Internet TV, if such a service ever materializes. But Dish recently partnered with Roku to not only offer DishWorld, but to give Dish exclusive rights to stream international content to Roku users in the U.S. Also, Multichannel News recently reported that "Roku has been in talks with major U.S. companies that are interested in offering a stripped-down bundle of TV content, delivered over broadband, to reach consumers who don't want to pay for traditional cable or satellite service", according to Roku CEO Anthony Wood.
The most-frequent type of question received at RokuGuide.com is whether a specific cable channel is available on Roku. And the most frequent type of complaint is that live streaming of a particular cable channel isn't available on the Roku. According to Bloomberg, though, cable networks have not wanted to offer channels a la carte "because it would lower the amount of available advertising inventory. Viacom and other cable networks typically sell ads at a lower rate than the big broadcast networks such as CBS Corp. (CBS), so they rely on volume."
Hopefully, Roku users will eventually be able to view their favorite cable channels, whether it's HGTV, Food Network, MTV, or something else, over their Roku and not have to pay for an expensive bundle with 50 or more channels that they will never watch.