When Sling TV debuted two years ago, the service was one-of-a-kind. Dish's so-called “skinny bundle” service was an OTT (streaming) service that offered a slimmed-down package of live network television channels. Subscribers could channel surf and watch live TV just like they could with cable, but the smaller package and internet delivery method meant that prices stayed far below cable's dizzying heights. Two years later, Sling TV is far from alone in its niche – and we're wondering which companies will release their skinny bundles next.

Dish's Sling TV now contends with Sony's PlayStation Vue, AT&T's DirecTV Now, and the once soccer-focused fuboTV. All of those competitors have emerged in the past two years, and many of them have shown up in just the past few months. They won't be the last. Here's your primer on the skinny bundles we may (or may not) see in the future, including confirmed, speculated, semi-launched, and even cancelled projects.

Skinny Bundles to Watch For

YouTube TV

YouTube TV

The long-rumored “YouTube Unplugged” branding is dead – long live YouTube TV! YouTube TV has made its debut, but it is only available in certain markets.

As for when the service's full rollout is coming, well, that remains to be seen. You can check YouTube TV's website to see if you live in one of the lucky markets and to sign up for an email notification when the service goes live nationwide.

Hulu's unnamed skinny bundle


Hulu has been teasing us with details about their upcoming skinny bundle for months now. We know a few details already. For one thing, we know that the price tag will be somewhere around $40/month, which is pretty typical stuff for a skinny bundle. We know that Hulu has landed CBS – the toughest of the major markets to ink to this kind of deal, since CBS has a streaming service of its own – and “more than 35” other top networks, including Fox and Disney (which owns ESPN and ABC, among others) properties.

We've actually seen Hulu's skinny bundle service, which is more than we can say about the rest of these. The service was shown off in a sneak peek at CES 2017. The sneak peek showed impressive content discovery features, but didn't reveal details about packages and tiers of service.

There's still no release date for this one, but considering that Hulu has been working on it so long and had a working prototype at CES, it looks like it will be coming sooner rather than later. Expect Hulu's skinny bundle to arrive quite soon, possibly even before YouTube TV's nationwide rollout.

Comcast's Xfinity Instant TV

 Comcast's Xfinity Instant TV

Comcast has actually had a skinny bundle for some time now. They've been testing a broadband-delivered skinny bundle in a couple of markets since 2015, and they're looking to expand nationwide this year.

According to recent reports, the service will be rebranded as Xfinity Instant TV (apparently regular TV just isn't “instant” enough) and will get a nationwide rollout sometime during Q3 of this year. It seems likely that Xfinity Instant TV will be beaten to the market by YouTube TV and Hulu's skinny bundle.

Verizon's skinny bundle


Comcast isn't the only ISP looking to jump into the skinny bundle fray. Verizon is also reportedly ready to commit to a skinny bundle project, though details are still a little sparse right now. They're aiming for a “summer” launch, so there is a possibility that they could beat Comcast to market. With that said, vague skinny bundle release dates have a way of evaporating. Consider Verizon and Comcast neck-and-neck in the skinny bundle race.

Apple's skinny bundle


Is Apple's skinny bundle dead in the water?

Apple has been rumored to be working on a skinny bundle since dinosaurs roamed the earth, but the past year or so has cast serious doubt on the idea that we'll ever see an entry from the tech giant. People were already giving up on this one back in December of 2015, and reports of its death have been frequent (if unconfirmed) since then. There's speculation that Apple would still like to get into this space, though – at the right price.

But Apple has recently focused its efforts on apps rather than content. Apple released its “TV” app recently, and that seems to be the main strategy for Apple in the cord cutting marketplace right now – in other words, the Apple skinny bundle is on indefinite hold.

Other candidates

As the cord cutting trend grows, traditional pay TV companies are realizing that they need to invest in OTT options or risk extinction. So it was only a mild surprise that the first skinny bundle – the innovative Sling TV – came from parent company Dish, a legacy pay TV company. Since then, AT&T (parent company of satellite company DIRECTV) has entered the market with its own skinny bundle, DirecTV Now.

So it makes sense to keep an eye on other traditional pay TV companies when we consider where the next skinny bundle is coming from. Charter has just acquired Time Warner Cable, which has streaming experience in the form of its TWC TV service (a streaming version of Time Warner Cable for traditional pay TV subscribers). Might they be next? With Verizon and Comcast already moving, Spectrum (the newly rebranded Charter-Time Warner) seems likely to be next.

Then there are the big tech and streaming giants. Google (via YouTube) is already in the game, as is Hulu. Apple seems to be out. It would be a bit surprising if Netflix branches out much from the SVOD space, where they dominate, but what about Amazon? Amazon has already has premium channels available as Prime add-ons; network channels might not be too much of a stretch. There hasn't been a ton of noise around Amazon yet, but they look like a prime candidate.

2 thoughts on “Which Companies Will Release Their Skinny Bundles Next?

  1. Rose Marie Schafer says:

    I am interested in who can acquire AMC, my fave channel…

  2. Anne says:

    I agree with Rose. I’d like to add that at this point, we should be able to have a more a la carte package. Sling came the closest. I mean, I have a teen in my house, we don’t need 5 espns and a bunch of other networks. We just want History, Cartoon Network, Science, MTV etc. PlayStation is the only “recordable” channel right now, so we go with that and an antenna for local stuff. I guess, they will get it together one day.

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