Former MTVN digital chief Jason Hirschhorn, whose sudden exit in May shocked many in the industry, has landed at Sling Media.
Hirschhorn and fellow MTVN veteran Ben White are joining the consumer electronics company to head up a new Entertainment Group division designed to forge partnerships with both content producers and distributors, who until now may have wondered whether Sling was friend or foe.
The pair became interested in Sling, which allows remote television viewing on a PC, phone or PDA, at the consumer electronics trade show last year where they befriended Sling CEO Blake Krikorian. The company's Slingbox, which takes a viewer's home-television signal and streams it to the Internet, impressed Hirschhorn and White, a former MTVN VP of Digital Media and ten year friend of Hirschhorn, as a game-changing technology.
"The minute I demoed Sling, I felt the same way I felt when someone showed me the iPod for the first time," Hirschhorn told B&C. "If look beyond TV, any screen strategy that gets more time with the audience, more opportunities to reach the audience brings more business opportunities and we think we’re a technology and a platform that’s going to enable that faster than the companies who have been charged with innovations so far."
Hirschhorn and White, who will build a team in a new New York office for Sling, have already begun reaching out to operators and content providers with ideas for how Sling can help enable audience interactivity with their content and plan announcements for this year's CES tradeshow. Operators have been leery of Sling, whose investors include EchoStar and Liberty, in the past for launching the Slingbox alone rather than in partnership them. Similarly, some TV programmers have questioned the company for enabling out of market viewing of their content.
“Those devices scare the hell out of me,” said ESPN VP Bryan Burns, speaking at a Washington tech conference in March.
Enter the new Entertainment Group, of which Hirschhorn will be president and White Chief Creative Officer.
"We see ourselves as a bridge between the content and distributors and this amazing platform," Hirschhorn says.
The pair demurred on specifics about the applications they are pitching content providers, but promised to ultimately make viewers more engaged with programming through interactivity.
"More and more people are spending more and more time in front of streams that aren't television," says White. "They're sitting in front of the PC screen and their mobile handset because they've brought them a personalized television experience. To bring them a TV experience and combine it with other service we'll be doing is a very compelling proposition."
MTVN named Hirschhorn Chief Digital Officer in October 2005 and tasked him with overseeing the company’s digital media businesses and interactive strategy. He played an instrumental role in growing the company’s brands and products on emerging platforms, helping to develop new products and launch several new ventures, most recently, MTVN/Microsoft’s music download service Urge. White, who worked closely with Hirschhorn and oversaw the launch of MTV's broadband site Overdrive, left the company in June.