In recent months, Sling Media has cut programming distribution and enhancement deals with CBS, and EchoStar rival DirecTV, and has worked to make its systems compatible with Microsoft's Windows mobile platform and Apple's Macintosh computers.
Hailed by the consumer technology industry as a breakthrough developer, Sling Media's products enable consumers to record, store and retrieve TV programming over the Internet to a variety of personal media devices, including personal computers, PDAs and smart phones. While penetration of Sling Media's devices is still relatively small, it has been growing rapidly. EchoStar's Dish Network currently has more than 13 million digital TV subscribers.
"As an early investor in Sling Media, EchoStar has been pleased with the progress and commitment the company has made establishing Sling Media and the Slingbox as powerful and beloved digital media brands," EchoStar CEO and Co-Founder Charlie Ergen stated. "With today's increasingly mobile lifestyle, EchoStar's acquisition of Sling Media will allow us to offer innovative and convenient ways for our customers to enjoy their programming on more displays and locations, including TVs, computers and mobile phones, both inside and outside of the home. This combination paves the way for the development of a host of new innovative products and services for our subscribers, new digital media consumers and strategic partners."
The move is interesting for a television distribution operator, because satellite and cable operators normally adopt "walled garden" approaches that constrict access to TV programming and services directly on their backbone. Sling Media's approach is exactly the opposite, giving consumers supreme control over when, where and how they view their programming.