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Dish to unveil $20-a-month streaming-TV service with ESPN, TNT

ESPN's new SportsCenter set in Bristol, Conn., on

ESPN's new SportsCenter set in Bristol, Conn., on May 22, 2014. ESPN will be among the offerings on the new Dish television service, Sling TV. Credit: Newsday / Neil Best

Dish Network Corp. plans to unveil the first major online television service from a cable or satellite company, a $20-a-month set of 12 channels that targets U.S. customers who don't want to pay for larger, more expensive TV packages.

Called Sling TV, the service will offer live feeds of sports, news and scripted shows on TVs, computers and mobile devices. ESPN, TNT and CNN and others have agreed to supply cable channels.

Pay-TV companies experiencing little or no subscriber growth are being forced to offer products that aren't tied to the traditional TV bundle to compete with cheaper Internet-based services that have attracted customers. Netflix has more customers than any single cable or satellite operator, with 37 million U.S. subscribers for an on-demand streaming video service that costs $8.99 a month.

Dish's partners on the programming side are also feeling pressure to appeal to younger consumers who don't subscribe to cable. HBO will offer an Internet-based version of the premium cable channel this year, and Showtime is planning a similar service.

Sony may beat both HBO and Showtime to the punch. It plans to offer its Internet-based TV service, PlayStation Vue, in the first quarter of this year. That package contains more channels than Sling TV, including USA, FX, Discovery, MTV and Comedy Central.

Like those services, Sling TV will vie for consumer attention with Netflix, as well as traditional TV packages from Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable. The average bill for basic cable service plus the most popular cable channels costs $64 a month on average, according to a May report from the Federal Communications Commission.

While Sling TV is the first significant online service from a cable or satellite company, it isn't the first time pay-TV companies have dabbled with offerings for customers who don't pay for traditional TV. DirecTV last month unveiled Yaveo, a Spanish-language streaming service that costs $7.99 a month and doesn't require a DirecTV satellite subscription.

Sling TV allows viewers to pause, rewind and fast forward live and on-demand programs, with as many as three days of viewing time.

Live channels also include TBS, HGTV, Cartoon Network and Disney Channel. The package does not include a single broadcast network or the most-watched cable news channel, Fox News. The company is exploring additional programming packages and possibly a free or low-cost package funded through advertising, Dish chief executive Joseph Clayton said in an interview last month in Manhattan.

Dish, based in Englewood, Colorado, will limit viewing of Sling TV to one screen at a time and says the service will work best on Amazon Fire TV, Google Nexus Player, Roku, Xbox One, Macs and PCs. Dish also says some mobile devices running on supported versions of Apple iOS and Google Android will work with the service.

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