Blake Krikorian, Co-Founder and CEO, Sling Media Television Group is sitting down with Om Malik to talk Sling.
Krikorian opens by talking about what’s already working: the building blocks, he says, the enabling technologies—are all there. Now it’s the business model challenges that hold things back. It’s not about cable or online; computer or smartphone—It’s about both: Cable and satellite and IP TV; my PC and my phone.
The biggest challenge, says Krikorian, is making feed access ubiquitous regardless of location and device and figuring out how to make it easier to discover and define the content. There is already too much choice—cable companies have the upper-hand when it comes to number of channels. But the ability to find what people are looking for is not there especially when cable and satellite are concerned. On the other hand, “if you go online you have a fantastic set of tools.” There may be less choice but it seems more empowering. That’s because online experience is letting users control the discovery process—something extremely difficult on TV.
Krikorian expects TV to become more web-like—not in a sense of a browser but in the way online conceptual tools, like search and share, can empower the user and the user ecosystem. There’s a tremendous value to be unlocked, he says. So content is there, but the real differentiation is going to be about the user experience. Why isn’t TV like that already? “Cable guys are just not innovators.”
Krikorian describes the gaps in the experience. If you look at what’s technically possible today, he says, it’s pathetic that we haven’t delivered on it. He uses the Olympics broadcasts as an example—Web and TV were two mostly independent, unsynchronized experiences. There was little to no leverage between (and across) platforms—each source was limited to what it, independently, planned to deliver. Another big issue is Rights Management. Working through these issues is the industry’s biggest challenge, says Krikorian.
What’s next for Sling
Sling is launching phase 2 of the company. “Our goal is to make things seamless. We want to connect consumers to content regardless of display, location, and even source.” Sling is starting with traditional TV content that mainstream audience is already watching and is focusing on defining the experience on across the various display formats. Sling is also working on IP delivery of content onto the TV set regardless of point of origin with Slingatcher—a browser embedded Sling player.
“Access is not the issue, says Krikorian. “It’s once you get there, how am I going to decide what to watch and where do I find it.” So by next year Sling plans to bring search and discovery web tools to TV. Sling is also continuing to focus on the user experience: “TV has seen tremendous evolution but the user experience hasn’t progressed at all.” It’s still at the grid level. The next big challenge, Krikorian says, is going to be creating the software that ties it all together.