Dish’s New Device Merges Streaming Services With Over-The-Air TV

Image courtesy of Sling TV

Millions of us have crossed the threshold where TV just comes from the internet now, and millions more are likely to follow in coming years. So it’s not really surprising that a traditional pay-TV company would be doubling down on selling access to its internet-delivered content… and its internet-connected delivery device.

And that’s what Dish seems accidentally to have not-quite-announced it’s doing next, as The Verge spotted.

Without fanfare, Dish has a new page live on its Sling TV website for the Air TV Player. The site is missing some key information about the device, so it probably wasn’t meant to be visible yet — but as of this writing, at least, the link to the Air TV promotional page is still live for you to view.

The core concept of the Air TV is something millions of us are already familiar with: a piece of hardware you plug into your TV to access streaming, internet-delivered content on the big screen. It’s what your Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, PlayStation, and Xbox have been doing for years.

Like Apple TV, Roku, and the Amazon Fire TV, Dish’s Air TV also promises universal search: provide the name of any content, and the device will return it from any platform where it’s available (and that you subscribe to, of course).

What makes the Air TV player a little different from its existing competition seems to be that you can integrate an over-the-air feed from a digital antenna as well. So when browsing, you can flick between your Netflix shows, your Amazon shows, your Sling-network shows, and whatever’s actually on your local network affiliates, zipping through the air.

So the tech itself isn’t exactly new or unusual, then; this is a field with robust competition. However, Dish’s involvement can be seen as a sign of the pay-TV industry’s continued transition away from traditional delivery and into the once-wild world of internet content.

We facetiously predicted a year ago that the move to cord-cutting and streaming content wouldn’t kill cable companies but instead, would herald a re-bundling era. And right on cue, that’s where we’re heading.

Because basically, what Dish is up to here isn’t that fundamentally different from what it already began two years ago to do with its satellite receivers, or from what Comcast is now starting to do with an X1 cable box: here’s an internet-connected device that you can use to watch your regular bundled “cable” content, plus also Netflix and some other services. Ta-da! All of your disparate content, now located in one place.

Dish seems to be betting that consumers are going to look at it and realize that paying Dish for the box is probably still cheaper than keeping traditional pay-TV: Although there’s no price point on the Air TV yet, the average pay-TV subscriber is paying is paying $10 to $20 per month for those fees, so the Air TV would only have to be under the $120 – $240 price point for many consumers to break even in the first year.