A new box from Sling TV could give cord-cutters access to local OTA channels

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Rich Shibley/Digital Trends
With PlayStation Vue having become available nationwide last month, Sling TV is suddenly facing much stiffer competition than it has to date. It’s clear that the service is going to have to offer something new in order to keep adding subscribers, and retain its current customers, and it seems that the company’s strategy revolves around local channels.

A new box could be on the way that would combine over-the-air (OTA) local channels with the Sling TV streaming experience, according to sources speaking to Dave Zatz of Zatz Not Funny. The box goes by the name AirTV and is a collaboration between the Dish-owned Sling TV and Echostar’s Sling Media.

Local TV channels have been a problem for both Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, because of the licensing deals required with each individual local affiliate. Because the AirTV would simply take the freely available OTA channels, however, this would avoid those licensing fees while providing a more streamlined experience than the combination of a streaming box and an antenna plugged straight into the television.

AirTV

Users would simply attach their own antenna to the AirTV, which would have both streaming hardware and an OTA tuner, which would then make this available to the Sling TV app on your own hardware. It remains to be seen exactly how the OTA channels would be presented within the Sling TV interface — obviously some of the more advanced features would be lacking — but for users who are just looking for the local news or similar programming, it would likely be good enough.

The AirTV may be just the start of Sling Media’s plans, as Zatz’s sources say that multiple Slingbox products could be on the way. There is currently no word on when any of these products, including the AirTV, will be available, or even if they will be available. Sling TV has yet to make any sort of announcement, and there has been no official confirmation of this project being in the works. And unless specific deals are made, this move could upset Sling TVs current partners, so the service will likely tread very carefully until all the bases have been covered.

Earlier this week, Sling TV made a somewhat confusing move with the addition of multiple Fox channels, only available in a package separate from its initial Best of Live TV package. Customers now face a choice as to which local channels they want. If or when the AirTV arrives, this would provide a solution to that problem.

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