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EchoStar to buy Slingbox maker for $380m

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US satellite-transmitted pay-TV company EchoStar is to buy Sling Media, developer of the Slingbox family of TV-over-the-net gadgets. The deal's worth $380m, to be paid in a mix of cash and EchoStar stock.

EchoStar has invested in Sling Media in the past, so it's had a solid insight into the privately held company's evolution over the last two years. It's undoubtedly keen on Sling's hardware - which not only makes it easy to stream content from EchoStar's Dish Network service to remote locations but also around the home - but we suspect it's Sling's clip sharing technology that particularly engaged EchoStar's interest.

TV has always been a social medium. For as long as TV has been mass-market product, people have discussed programmes and shows. These days they're perhaps more likely to do so on the web, via email and instant messaging, and increasingly by uploading clips to YouTube.

Sling's Clip+Share system allows viewers to add visuals to these 'did you see?' conversations, and for a TV company out to find a way to survive in a time when more and more viewers are ignoring prime-time TV in favour of online video - particularly in the US - Sling's approach has much to commend it.

Sling co-founder and CEO Blake Kerkorian pledged that the Slingbox would continue to deliver TV content from a broad array of sources to individuals, so it's not going to be become a Dish Network-only product.

Sling is expected to announce a revamped UK product line tomorrow - check out Register Hardware for full details.

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