The rumors of a set-top box designed to combine Dish’s Sling TV service, Netflix, and over-the-air television were true. Today, Dish officially announced the AirTV Player, an Android TV streaming device that the company is pitching as “a single platform” for on-demand streaming, internet TV, and over-the-air local channels.
Since it’s an Android TV box, you can install whatever apps you want, but the preinstalled options are Sling TV, Netflix, and YouTube. The AirTV Player also supports 4K streaming from services that offer UHD resolution. The AirTV Player is available beginning today for $129 with a bundled OTA adapter or $99 for just the box itself. (Sling TV subscribers receive a $50 credit if they buy one.) It comes with a remote control that allows voice search and has physical shortcut buttons for Sling and Netflix. There’s also a locator button on the AirTV Player itself to help you find the remote when you inevitably lose it somewhere.
With the AirTV Player, OTA channels remain separate from your Sling TV subscription, but they’re integrated into the same channel guide, so everything’s in one place even if it’s coming from different sources. That way, you can choose your monthly Sling TV package based on the cable channels included and without being swayed because one or two of the big four networks is part of the deal.
The AirTV Player could lessen a major hurdle for Sling TV and competing services like PlayStation Vue: negotiating agreements to carry live programming from broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) and their local affiliates across the country. This has proved doable in markets where the networks directly own and operate the local channel, but elsewhere in the US, it can be much harder and more time-consuming to work out deals. This is a workaround for that hassle, at least for customers interested in spending the money on what, at first blush, seems like a very decent streaming gadget.