CES Rumor: Verizon Connecting With Sling

LAS VEGAS -- 2011 International CES -- Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Sling Media Inc. , the video place-shifting company owned by EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS), plan to announce a partnership of some sort Thursday afternoon during a press conference being hosted here by the telco.

The context of the purported partnership wasn't immediately known, but speculation is that Verizon intends to boost its own TV Everywhere strategy by using Sling's technology so FiOS TV subs can access FiOS TV programming on the go via iPads, smartphones, PCs, and other Internet-connected mobile devices.

But there are a couple of options available to Verizon. It could go with a new set-top that bakes the Sling technology in, or it could use a new standalone, USB-connected "Sling Adapter" that can rapidly synch up with Verizon's existing set-tops. If time-to-market is of the essence, it's possible that Verizon will start with the latter option. Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Echostar's and Sling Media's corporate cousin, is already offering both methods. (See TelcoTV 2010: Dish Ready to Serve 'Sling Adapter' and Dish Starts Selling 'Sling-Loaded' HD-DVR .)

But there is still the lingering question of whether Verizon, if it does indeed move forward with a Sling strategy, will only allow streaming of linear channels inside customer homes, or if it will allow access to them from anywhere.

Interestingly, EchoStar/Sling does allow carrier partners to decide which channels to place-shift. Under that more restrictive scenario, a service provider could choose to sling only the channels it has the rights for, while keeping others bound to the set-top. (See EchoStar Puts Sling Out to License .)

Regardless, such a move would apply some TV Everywhere pressure on cable operators. On Tuesday, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) announced plans to deliver live TV to Apple iPads and Android tablets, but the initial version of that product will prevent customers from accessing that programming from outside the home. (See Comcast to Stream TV to iPads, Android Tablets .)

EchoStar declined to comment Wednesday afternoon. Verizon was not immediately available for comment.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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