A new OTT platform that Sling TV will soon launch adds desirable features that may make cord cutting even more appealing. AirTV will put local channels on Sling TV through a separate OTA antenna, integrated with both Netflix and the Sling TV channel line-up on a single interface.
This new method of adding local channels on Sling TV allows a subscriber to receive all their local channels (in theory – in reality, all the channels that are accessible via an OTA antenna), a feat that is not available today.
Sling TV does currently offer some local channels (without the need for a separate OTA antenna) in many markets, but nowhere near all of them. It doesn’t offer CBS anywhere, and ABC access is quite limited.
AirTV is a new Android-powered STB platform that integrates local channels, Netflix content, and the Sling TV channel line-up into a single interface, meaning customers don’t have to switch inputs on their TV, or use different remotes to access all of that content. It’s presented in one user guide.
Other popular OTT STB platforms like Roku and Apple TV can’t match this type of integration, at least not out of the box. So with AirTV, subscribers to Sling get local channels, a skinny bundle of cable channels (including ESPN, CNN etc.), Netflix content, access to premium channels like HBO, and VOD content. Not a bad combination.
A DVR is missing, although Sling is in a beta trial for DVR service . It’s not clear if that cloud DVR option could integrate with the Android-powered AirTV platform, or record the local OTA channels integrated into it.
There are some other potential drawbacks. Customers will still be required to have multiple subscriptions – Sling TV and Netflix, versus a single ‘cable bill.’ Also, customers will probably be required to install the OTA antenna themselves and connect it to AirTV. Not a huge problem for many, but still a hurdle for mass adoption.
Local Channels on Sling AirTV Player
With local channels on Sling TV now accomplished through an integrated OTA antenna, will parent company DISH try to move away from negotiating retransmission rights for local stations on Sling? Probably not likely, at least not in the short term.
But maybe in the long term. AirTV will have to become commercially successful and widely penetrated first. That’s not a given. There will also still be many customers who can’t receive local channels from an OTA antenna, particularly in suburban and rural markets.
The AirTV platform is featured on the Sling website, but there is no announcement regarding availability or a specific launch date. Perhaps an official launch will take place at next month’s CES show.