TV Shows to Watch on Thanksgiving

Charlie Brown and Lucy Thanksgiving Day usually includes at least two core activities: eating and watching TV. We have a fairly good idea of what you’ll be eating. But what will you be watching?

Whether you’re staying at home, going out of town or living abroad, here are a few traditional and not-so-traditional programs to keep the Thanksgiving spirit alive…at least until Black Friday.

  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade  — NBC, 9:00 am ET
    The Today Show gang – Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie — host the annual event that is celebrating its 87th year.
  • The National Dog Show – NBC, 12:00 pm ET
    Can the Wire Fox Terrier defend its Best in Show title for a third year in a row?
  • NFL Football
    • Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions – FOX, 12:30 am ET
    • Oakland Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys – CBS, 4:30 pm ET
    • Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens – NBC, 8:30 pm ET
  • Punkin Chunkin 2013 – Discovery Channel, 8:00 pm ET
    Engineers compete to find out which contraption can throw the farthest pumpkin.

Don’t have a Slingbox to watch your favorite holiday programs while you’re away from home? Check out our Black Friday deal: Save $50 on a Slingbox 350, the lowest price of the year. Give the gift that keeps on giving!

Q&A with Sr. Product Manager Mark Maisenbacher

Headshot of Mark Maisenbacher of Sling MediaEarlier this week, Sling Media launched a completely revamped version of the company’s SlingPlayer for iPad app. Senior Product Manager Mark Maisenbacher (pictured, right) and his team developed a completely redesigned SlingPlayer experience that incorporated second-screen tools for discovery and navigation, social sharing and the ultimate sports viewing companion (both in conjunction with what’s being watched on the big screen TV at home or on the iPad on the go). We chatted with him to find out what’s in that brainy head of his.

Sling: Why are you excited about SlingPlayer for iPad?

Mark: This “second screen” has many functions, but discovery is what SlingPlayer for iPad is all about. When you open the app, it takes your cable, satellite or telecom guide and transfers it to a beautiful gallery display with easy-to-use filters, whether you want to watch a good movie or sports game, or just find what programs are popular at the moment. It’s a seamless process, much easier than flipping through channels on your TV screen.

We’re also exploring new and different directions on supplemental and social content. For supplemental content, we are focusing on sports by displaying live stats while the game is on. For social interaction, customers can follow or compose their own tweets and read other relevant tweets on any given show from a Trendrr feed.

With SlingPlayer for iPad, our main goal was to shorten the process from “I want to watch something” to “I AM watching something,” whether you know what you want to watch or not.  Now, you’ll see what movies or shows are on within seconds after you open the app, like you would on your couch with your remote control. Our hope is for customers to find a program to watch within the shortest time possible. Using SlingPlayer for iPad to find something to watch on live TV is so much better than using the on-screen guides on your TV.

Sling: What’s in store for the future?

Mark: We have introduced a number of new features in this brand new SlingPlayer, so we will be gauging their usage to see which ones people enjoy, and which ones might need re-evaluation. I am a little bit of a data nerd, so I am excited to look at our analytics and user feedback (yes, we actually read all of it!) to see how we can continue to make it a better experience.

Sling: You talked about social interaction. Is social media affecting how people watch TV?

Mark: Social media is already changing consumer behavior. We’re noticing that people are going back to watch a live episode right when it airs because entire groups of people are talking about it at the same time. They want to be in on that conversation as it plays out. Years ago, people watched a show and talked about it the next day at the water cooler.  That got lost with the DVR. Twitter is driving people to watch live TV because everyone else is watching it.

Sling: Sports fans love Slingbox. What about expats or frequent travelers?

Mark: True story…After I started working at Sling, a lot of my grad school friends found out and got in touch with me to learn about Slingbox. Their jobs required them to live in other countries, so they needed a solution that would let them watch their favorite American TV shows from wherever they were relocated to. From there, it spread by word of mouth. People I hardly knew started to contact me to learn more about Slingbox. So, yeah, Slingbox is definitely ideal for people who live or frequently travel abroad.

The iPad is becoming a necessary travel accessory because people are used to the instant gratification of watching a program when they want to watch it. For many people, it’s becoming the primary screen to watch TV on.

Sling: How is Sling different from other companies who claim the whole “TV everywhere” proposition?  What differentiates us from them?

Mark: We are providing exactly the same TV content that’s in your living room to wherever you have an Internet connection.  Whether it’s HBO, Showtime or your local sports games, we can deliver that content to you anywhere, in any geographic location. Competitors don’t offer the same experience.

Sling: Now, for the fun stuff. What were you doing before Sling? What do you like to do for fun? What’s on your iTunes?

Mark: Prior to this, I was at Cisco as a product manager. Before that, I just finished my MBA at Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. Fun? I have something different going on every weekend. Usually, my weekends are filled with quick trips to see a friend in another city, trying restaurants in the area or going up to San Francisco and getting lost in the city.  I’m also a car enthusiast. Taking my car out to Portola Valley and driving it on the twisty roads is something I enjoy. As far as iTunes, I let Spotify decide what I listen to. Lately, I have enjoyed the Mayor Hawthorne and Lupe Fiasco stations.

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If you’re headed to CES in January, catch Mark at the Slingbox booth and ask him for a demo on the SlingPlayer for iPad app. Until then, check back here for more Q&As with other members of the Sling Media team.

New SlingPlayer Apps: iPad, Roku, Windows 8.1

Today, Sling Media announced new SlingPlayer apps that will extend your living room TV to popular devices and enhance your TV-watching experience in more ways than one.

  • SlingPlayer 3.0 Gallery on iPadSlingPlayer for iPad
    New and improved SlingPlayer for iPad is a second-screen app that transforms your iPad into the first screen. You can still watch all of your TV channels on your iPad, but this free upgrade takes that a step further by providing tools that will help you (1) discover new TV programs, (2) look up sports stats as you’re watching the game, (3) post comments on social media, (4) use it as a remote control, inside or outside the home and, while engaging in these activities, (5) watch your TV program with a split-screen window.
  • SlingPlayer for Roku UISlingPlayer Channel for Roku
    After much anticipation, SlingPlayer is now available for Roku streaming devices. With SlingPlayer on their iPhone or Android smartphone, Slingbox customers can watch their live or recorded TV programs on another Roku-connected TV — whether it’s in another room in your house or at your vacation condo in the mountains – in order to take advantage of the big screen without paying for an additional cable or satellite subscription. Also, SlingPlayer for iPhone and SlingPlayer for Android Phones function with Roku as a remote control that will help you navigate live and recorded TV programs from your Slingbox. Phone commands allow users to control their TV — change channels, access the guide, schedule the DVR, etc. — as if they were sitting in their living room with the actual remote control.
  • SlingPlayer for Windows 8.1
    Anticipated for a December launch, SlingPlayer will be optimized across various Windows 8.1 devices, including the Surface tablet, desktop and laptop PCs, as well as convertible devices.

Visit our website for more information on each of these new SlingPlayer versions. Which one will you use the most?

5 Tech Items for Black Friday Camping

People camping outside of Best Buy waiting for Black Friday

If you’re giving up Thanksgiving dinner to camp out in front of Best Buy, or another retail store, for that Black Friday bargain, there’s no denying it – you’re hardcore.

Assuming you’ll have the usual gear with you (tent, sleeping bag, lawn chair, mobile device), here are a few other items that you might not think to bring with you but will be glad you did:

(1)    HeatMax Hand & Body Warmer
Stick them in your mittens, your coat pocket or your slippers – anywhere to keep yourself warm.

(2)    UCO Arka LED Rechargeable Lantern
Need a light – and a battery to recharge your smartphone or tablet? The Arca does both. You’ll never be left in the dark or without access to your Facebook page.

(3)    3M MP 225A Mobile Projector
Make it movie night! Connect this device to your smartphone or tablet and project content onto a blank wall.

(4)    MiFi
A MiFi  is your own personal hotspot for those who must always be online no matter where their travels take them. Visit your mobile carrier for various brands and plans.

(5)    SlingPlayer for your iOS or Android device
You’re sacrificing a Thanksgiving meal. But what about all the TV you’ll be giving up? Don’t risk boredom. With a Slingbox connected at home and the SlingPlayer app on your mobile device, you can access all your TV channels and watch the live parades, college football bowls or classic old movies, right from the comfort of your…tent.

Got any other suggestions?

Slingbox 350 Launches in Brazil

eMarketer statistics on Brazil's Internet usage based on sports interestsSling Media launched the Slingbox 350 in Brazil today, with positive reception from local media and tech enthusiasts. Why Brazil?  A few reasons:

First, Brazil is online. According to Internet World Stats, out of the 199 million people who populate the country, 46 percent are surfing the Web, making it the largest market for Internet usage among all Latin American countries. eMarketer suggests that this percentage will continue to grow over the next few years.

Second, the mobile phone industry in Brazil has experienced significant growth. Back in 2011, Brazil had more mobile Internet users than fixed broadband users, according to eMarketer. The organization also predicted that by 2015, 69 percent of the population will have a mobile phone.

Graffiti in Brazil for 350 launchThird, Brazilians are driven to the Internet by their intense passion for sports. Online videos and updated sports news are important to them (see chart above). Now that the Slingbox 350 is available in Brazil, TV accessibility is expected to become a priority to avid sports fans as the World Cup, coming in June 2014, and the 2016 Summer Olympics will increase the demand for an affordable, high-quality “TV Anywhere” solution.

Stay tuned for news on future global launches.

Q&A with Sling Media’s VP/GM Michael Hawkey

Michael Hawkey at the whiteboardMichael Hawkey, vice president and general manager at Sling Media, has been on the job for several months now. We sat down with him to get his thoughts about the company, its products and the industry and what he’s doing to take Sling Media to the next level.

Sling Media: Coming into this new role, what are you most excited about?

Michael Hawkey: I’m excited about giving customers the ability to watch their TV anywhere; all their content anytime, anyplace, especially with the massive growth in mobile devices over the past six years. Watching your videos on your mobile device actually came along after the first Slingbox. Sling was ahead of its time, in that regard, because we were giving you TV Anywhere before mobile devices exploded and networks became more reliable. Now, with all the great devices and stronger networks, people want to access their content all the time. That’s what I’m excited about.

Sling:  What do you think is driving that behavior?

Michael: When you have a screen in your hand or on your lap, it’s natural that you would want sound AND video.  I don’t need to ask my mother what she wants to see on her Kindle Fire or what my daughter wants to watch on her iPad.  They want to watch their TV, and Sling gives them a way to get their TV channels without limits. The content allows people to be free to move around.

Back in the old TV days, M*A*S*H* was on every Monday at 7:30 pm. We planned our weekly activities around it because you had to watch it when it was on. Now, people are on-the-go far more today, and they don’t want to be pinned down to a time or a place. The DVR gives us the ability to shift time. Slingbox takes that a step further by shifting location as well. That’s what I like about Slingbox — it delivers all your TV channels, all the time, anywhere.

Sling:   Sports fan and tech enthusiasts who own a Slingbox really love it. What about other audiences?

Michael:  We want to go beyond tech enthusiasts, beyond sports enthusiasts. We’ll never abandon them, but we want to reach other people, especially the millennial generation.

Sling:  How is social media effecting TV as a whole and how is Sling Media using it to better engage with its customers?

Michael: Social Media let’s people share online, but the concept isn’t new. For us older folks, we just talked about TV around the water cooler.  We “did” social media over lunch or face to face.  Now, we’re using technology to expand how and where you can connect with others.

Sling:  What’s one misconception about Slingbox you would like to address?

Michael: There’s a few. A lot of people watch commercials and believe they can watch their TV on their mobile device, inside and outside the home. But really, only Slingbox can deliver that. That’s not a misconception about Sling, but the concept of TV Anywhere.

Another misconception is that Sling has ongoing fees. Actually, consumers just need to purchase the hardware and software and that’s it.

Not necessarily a misconception, but people don’t know what Sling does. They might recognize the brand, but don’t know what we do.

Sling: On the lighter side of things, what’s on your iTunes?

Michael: Aerosmith to Beatles, Billie Holiday to Billy Joel, big Christina Aguilera fan, Nelly Furtado, big No Doubt fan, Green Day, Sound City, classical, hip-hop, even metal.

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Never would’ve pinned Michael Hawkey as a No Doubt or Green Day fan!

Connect with him on his LinkedIn page. And check back here for more Q&As with other members of the Sling Media team.