In the "Back to the Future" films, 2015 is the distant year to which Marty McFly travels. It's 30 years into the future at the time, and the world is filled with flying cars, hoverboards and all sorts of other inventions.
Now that we've arrived at 2015 without many of the things the film predicted, some people (hopefully at least half-jokingly) are a little upset. To them, let us offer this: we might still have to drive on roads, but the future of television — specifically sports on TV — has arrived.
At the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday in Las Vegas, Dish Network revealed its "Sling TV." The technology itself, which delivers programming to televisions (and other devices) via an Internet connection, isn't the revolutionary part. But what is being offered, even if details are limited, is the real eye-opener.
The start-up package, available soon through a number of devices, will be a menu of 12 channels for a total of $20 a month. Included in the 12 channels are ESPN and ESPN2.
"It is the launch of a whole new industry here," Joseph Clayton, Dish's chief executive, told the New York Times. "We are innovators. We are disrupters. We don't always make people happy because we challenge the status quo."
The package for now is notable as much for what is offered as what isn't. None of the other national sports networks (such as Fox Sports 1 or NBC Sports Network) are part of it. Nor are others such as Big Ten Network or Fox Sports North, which carry a ton of Minnesota sporting events. Also absent: any of the major networks.
That said, this appears to be at least the first step toward what many viewers, and specifically sports fans, hope is the ultimate goal: true a la carte choices when it comes to channels.
At our house, for instance, roughly 90 percent of our live or DVR viewing comes on about five channels: ESPN, Big Ten Network, Fox Sports North, Food Network and HGTV. Yet we pay for hundreds of other channels to get the ones we really want.
What Sling TV tells us is that not only is the technology there to support the kind of programming people truly want, but major players like ESPN are ready to at least dip their toes into the water to see how people respond to a limited, focused and cheaper TV package.
As it stands now, Sling TV wouldn't be too useful to most sports fans because too much is left out.
But the first wave of TV of the future is here. We might not have flying cars, but this is a pretty nice start to 2015.