COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. EchoStar Communications Corp. made a surprise move late Monday evening (Sept. 25), offering $380 million to acquire Sling Media Inc. The acquisition offer, made through EchoStar's Dish TV digital broadcast satellite (DBS) subsidiary, is payable in cash and EchoStar options, and is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
Sling Media's Slingbox lets users access favorite local shows from a laptop anywhere in the world. EchoStar was a key investor last year in Sling's second round of financing. Its acquisition of Sling Media would make Slingbox beholden to a single DBS operator, spelling potential trouble for the hardware's continued acceptance among cable multisystem operators (MSOs).
Sling launched a content group last year, Sling Entertainment Group, which would also become part of EchoStar/Dish. The group's first product, Clip+Sling, allows sharing of video clips accessed through Slingbox.
Meanwhhile, EchoStar has asked the Internal Revenue Service whether it can separate its technology and infrastructure assets by spinning off all technology assets as a company that would be separate from Dish. The Sling acquisition, if completed, would fall under the jurisdiction of the spinout, as would the set-top boxes dedicated to the Dish DBS network.
A Sling spokesman said the company intends to maintain its relationships with MSOs worldwide. He said Sling had not figured into EchoStar's efforts with the IRS to spin off hardware assets but added that Sling saw it as beneficial to its global relationships to have technology assets separated from Dish.