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Slingbox Melds YouTube with Pay-TV Services

Sling Media has upgraded the guide for its high-end SlingTV and Slingbox 500 place-shifting devices to bring YouTube videos — in resolution up to 1080p HD — delivered in an integrated way alongside live cable or satellite TV channels.

The move is designed to make Sling’s boxes more appealing, as one of several features aimed at making the devices the primary way pay-TV customers opt to watch television. (Customers must still pay for a separate cable or satellite TV service.)

The new SlingTV and Slingbox 500 guide provides a contextual YouTube overlay during live TV, with the option to call up a row relevant YouTube thumbnails while live programming continues to play in the top two-thirds of the screen. For example, if you’re watching Jimmy Fallon doing his latest Neil Young impression on TV, you can watch the last time he did it on YouTube. Sling Media is using Audible Magic’s audio-fingerprinting technology to identify what’s playing on screen and pull up related YouTube videos.

In addition, the new SlingTV and Slingbox 500 guide displays top-trending YouTube videos on a separate tab and includes a standalone YouTube app that lets users browse content by genre categories.

Sling launched the $300 SlingTV this summer, as the replacement for the prior-generation Slingbox 500 with the same form factor. It also bowed the Slingbox M1, with a retail price of $150, which doesn’t have the advanced guide of the SlingTV.

Other features of the enhanced SlingTV guide, which has since rolled out for Slingbox 500 users, include cover-art tiles, ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, content recommendations and the ability to set up favorites.

EchoStar acquired Sling Media in 2007 for $380 million. At the time, EchoStar was the parent company of Dish Network but the two entities subsequently split.

Sling has not disclosed how many devices it’s sold to date. But its core place-shifting capabilities — which let users access live or recorded TV over the Internet to various connected devices — clearly have not been as popular as DVRs have been.

Here’s a video showing the new features in the Sling TV YouTube:

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