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.