Here’s the proposal from EchoStar to cable operators: Don’t bother to cut separate distribution deals to take TV programming to Internet and mobile platforms. Just sling it!
“We’ve been hearing a lot about TV Everywhere lately,” reads an EchoStar ad aimed at MSOs. “Well, welcome to the party.”
EchoStar bought Sling Media two years ago with the idea that “slinging” TV would become as big as time-shifting programming with a DVR. “Placeshifting” hasn’t yet caught on in the way DVRs have–but with all the TV Everywhere buzz in the industry EchoStar wants to point out to cable companies that its Slingbox-enabled set-tops can deliver on the concept without all those messy content rights discussions (see Rogers To Launch ‘TV Everywhere’ In November, Comcast: Programmers Control ‘TV Everywhere’ Ad Model and Most Cable Customers Give ‘TV Everywhere’ Thumbs Up: Survey.)
“Rebroadcasting content from Hulu is not a complete solution for a consumer,” said Mike Hawkey, vice president of sales and marketing at EchoStar, adding rhetorically, “Will your customer be satisfied with half the content?”
EchoStar and Sling Media will be in Denver this week, marking their debut at SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo, as part of a marketing push behind the TV Everywhere message.
On display at the show will be the tru2way-based T2200S cable set-top box (code-named Morpheus) that’s “SlingLoaded” to let a cable subscriber access live TV, DVR recordings and VOD from PCs, Macs, mobile phones or an iPhone (well, sort of — the iPhone client is Wi-Fi-only).
Note that Dish Network is targeting the launch of its “SlingLoaded” ViP 922 before the end of 2009 — originally, the satellite operator was intending to launch it this spring. EchoStar is officially separate from the Dish side of the house, although Dish is its biggest customer for equipment and services.
EchoStar now has soft-launched Slingbox.com, where customers can connect to a Slingbox using just a Web browser — without requiring the SlingPlayer client to be downloaded and installed. (The SlingPlayer for Windows, for example, is 65MB.) Only one user at a time can do this, “as Slinging is a one-to-one application, much like TV Everywhere is proposing,” the company says.
Hawkey said this allows a cable operator to deliver a true “TV Everywhere” experience, with the full cable lineup totally intact, including live TV.
Cable customers can rebrand their online portals, though Hawkey said he wants to maintain a “powered by Sling” co-branding with customer destinations. EchoStar also is looking to license the Slingbox technology to set-top makers like Cisco or Motorola “and I’ll step out of the way,” he said.
But don’t operators want monetization/ad revenue opportunities? Cable companies can generate recurring revenue by selling a Slingbox service, as they do with DVRs, Hawkey replied.
With this TV Everywhere end-around, though, there’s clearly the issue of cable operators ruffling the feathers of programming providers. There’s also the EchoStar’s heritage with Dish, a fierce competitor to cable, and Hawkey’s reference to licensing the Sling technology to set-top makers may be intended to lessen that sting.
Will any MSOs bite on the Slingbox story? Hawkey claimed two operators are gearing up for launches soon, one before Christmas and one in early 2010, though he declined to identify them.