Sling Media, an Echostar subsidiary since last year, has opened the doors on a public beta version of its video streaming portal Sling.com, featuring current television content from networks like NBC, CBS, and Fox, along with a selection of movies, older televisions shows, and video from Web-based video sites like College Humor.
In taking the site public, Sling.com is going up against sites like the Fox-NBC partnership Hulu, sites operated by the networks themselves, as well as video services like the iTunes store and Xbox Live Marketplace…and it’s doing so with much of the same content. However, Sling.com isn’t so much competing with other online video sites as leveraging them—in fact, much of Sling.com’s current content comes from Hulu (and is branded as such). The site’s real differentiator is that users with a SlingBox can also access their own home cable or satellite service via the site, enabling users (at least those running Windows; Mac support isn’t available yet) to watch live television over the Internet via a Web browser—at least from anywhere they can get a broadband connection. Sling.com uses a Flash-based player; videos are available for free and often contain embedded advertisements.
The Sling portal enables users to create profiles listing shows users have watched and marked as favorites; users can also sign up as fans of other Sling.com users and subscribe to video feeds of current and long-gone shows.
Sling plans to add more content and features as the site develops. For users without a Slingbox, the current site basically pulls together a little more content than which might be available on other online video sites. For Slingbox owners, the combination of being able to tap into Web-based video as well as live television and personal video collections via the Web might be very compelling.