AMC, Discovery, Viacom planning nonsports TV channel package, report says

Programmers will likely tread carefully with any streaming channel package plans, so as to not upset pay-TV operators.

AMC Network, Discovery and Viacom are said to be talking with pay-TV operators about an alternative channel bundle for consumers who are tired of paying for expensive sports rights.

According to Bloomberg, the programmers are in talks with four to six operators about a livestreaming channel package offered over the internet, and one such service could become available as soon as later this year.

The packages being discussed could be priced less than $20 per month, according to the report.

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The reported talks and pricing range for nonsports TV bundles certainly gels with comments made last month by Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, who pointed out how many virtual MVPDs are priced around $40 per month and come stacked with broadcast TV and live sports. He said what the U.S. needs is a compelling lower-priced option, an entertainment pack which he predicted would focus on programmers like Viacom and be priced from the low teens to $20.

“We can’t say exactly when it will happen, but we feel it’s inevitable,” Bakish said, adding that Viacom is currently in conversations with lots of companies about such an offering.

As an example, Bakish noted European operators like Sky are having a lot of success selling entertainment channel bundles.

A nonsports channel package could also serve as a potential salve for network groups like Viacom and Discovery which have yet to find their way into emerging livestreaming TV services like YouTube TV and Hulu’s upcoming TV service. Hulu has signed on A+E Networks for its service and YouTube recently announced it will soon add AMC’s channels to its service, but Viacom won’t be joining Hulu’s service and Discovery has yet to hammer out deals with Hulu or YouTube.

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Of course, programmers will likely tread carefully with any streaming channel package plans, so as to not upset pay-TV operators who still provide a lucrative source of revenue for programmers through extensive carriage agreements.

AMC is reportedly planning its own live TV SVOD service but, interestingly, plans to require both a subscription fee and a pay-TV subscription to access. The somewhat unusual pricing structure for the reported service is something of a peace offering to pay-TV providers who have been stung by cord cutting and likely stand to lose even more customers as more streaming TV options crop up.