This week on TechHive: Sinclair and the streaming sports mess

Bally Sports channels

This week's column is admittedly a bit of a rant.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Sinclair has spent months teasing a standalone streaming service for its regional Bally Sports networks. The company is reportedly targeting a price of $23 per month for the service, and hopes to launch it in time for the 2022 Major League Baseball season.

Now, there seems to be some doubt about whether it will happen. It’s unclear if TV providers are on board with the plan, and if they aren't, Sinclair's moves could compel them to remove Bally Sports from their lineups, jeopardizing a big chunk of the company's existing TV business.

My column is partly about the odds of the standalone service actually happening, and partly about the messy state of sports streaming general. Watching live sports is increasingly becoming a confusing, convoluted affair whether you have cable or not. What Sinclair is promising—one service for all your local coverage—would be a much-needed way to cut through the clutter. Read the full story on TechHive.

Weekly rewind

Peacock on Fire TV: Our long national nightmare of Peacock not being available on Fire TV devices is over. NBCUniversal and Amazon have come to terms—11 months after the service launched on other streaming platforms—and you can download the app right now. (The easiest way is to hit the voice button your remote and say "Peacock," ideally in a semi-flabbergasted tone of voice.)

As a bonus, Peacock appears to have gone whole-hog on Alexa voice commands as well, so you can use Fire TV voice remote or a nearby Echo speaker to say things like "Watch The Office on Peacock." I look forward to not having to update this story on sideloading the app anymore.

Peacock's Olympics push: In other Peacock news, NBC's finally hoping to turn the service into a destination for the Summer Olympics next month after the pandemic delayed the games last year. Peacock's free tier will carry gymnastics and track and field (both men's and women's), while the $5-and-up Premium tier will cover basketball.

That said, much of NBC's other Olympics coverage will still live on NBC and NBCSN, underscoring the point I made in my column: If you want full Olympics coverage, neither a big TV bundle nor Peacock alone will be enough. You'll need to pay for both.

Could Comcast buy Roku? Okay, one more NBC-adjacent item: The Wall Street Journal had a juicy report this week about Comcast's streaming ambitions. Citing a single unnamed source, the report says Comcast has considered a "tie-up" with ViacomCBS or an acquisition of Roku.

Comcast has dismissed the story as "pure speculation," but it's no secret that the cable giant is envious of Roku's business. Previous reports have claimed that Comcast wants to license the software from its X1 and Flex boxes to smart TV makers, and that it's held talks with Walmart to distribute them. The WSJ's story reiterates those rumors, noting that it would allow Comcast to put its own Peacock service front-and-center.

But of course, it would have to contend with Roku, whose software already ships on 38% of smart TVs sold in the United States. Acquiring the company would solve that problem, but would also set a lot of customer goodwill on fire given Comcast's general unlikability. Absent any other confirmation from other outlets, I'm guessing there's not much to the rumor even if it's fun to think about.

More catch-up

  • Locast adds closed captioning, user profiles, and favorite channels.
  • Paramount+ adds a watchlist feature.
  • I'd love to have more items here but honestly it's been a slow-ish news week.

Save more money

Roku Express 4K+

Although Prime Day has come and gone, it's not too late to grab a discounted Roku player. Those include the Roku Express 4K+ for $29 (regularly $40), the Roku Streaming Stick+ for $39 (regularly $50), or the Roku Ultra for $69 (regularly $100). You can also save $30 each on Roku's Streambar, Smart Soundbar, and companion Subwoofer, which are essentially streaming players that double as soundbars for your TV.

I think the Express 4K+ is the best option for most people, though the Streaming Stick+ has better Wi-Fi performance, and the Ultra has extra bells and whistles like a headphone jack in the remote and Bluetooth for playing music from your phone. If you opt for one of the soundbars—which obviates the need for Roku's standalone players—the Smart Soundbar will give you better audio quality and a virtual surround sound effect, though it is $50 pricier.

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