& cplSiteName &

Sling Media Opens the TiVo Playbook

Jeff Baumgartner
The Bauminator
Jeff Baumgartner
1/9/2013
50%
50%

10:45 AM -- When the Slingbox came on the scene in 2004, I thought it was a great idea. It delivered TV Everywhere years before the term was coined by almost every pay-TV operator under the sun.

I also remember thinking it would only be a matter of time before someone, somewhere would try to sue the pants off Sling Media Inc. for retransmitting video signals.

Discovery Communications Inc. has complained about Sling, but has yet to file a formal lawsuit. Back in 2006, former HBO CTO Bob Zitter openly wondered if Sling's approach was on the legal up-and-up. Yet, through it all -- including its US$385 million acquisition by EchoStar in 2007 -- Sling is still standing, as a company and on legal grounds. (See HBO Exec: Sling Slags Copyrights and Why Is Sling Getting a Free Pass?)

But it was Sling that went on the offensive this week, targeting Belkin Corp. and Monsoon Multimedia Inc. in lawsuits filed in California claiming that they are infringing on five Sling patents:

  • No. 7,725,912 -- "Method for Implementing a Remote Display System with Transcoding";
  • No. 7,877,776 -- "Personal Media Broadcasting System";
  • No. 8,051,454 -- "Personal Media Broadcasting System with Output Buffer";
  • No. 8,060,909 -- "Personal Media Broadcasting System"; and,
  • No. 8,266,657 -- "Method for Effectively Implementing a Multi-Room Television System."


Belkin and Monsoon both make video place-shifting devices. Monsoon is complementing a retail strategy with a direct-to-MSO approach that lets the operators decide which channels are eligible for place-shifting and whether video streams can be sent beyond the customer's home network. That's not a bad idea, since cable operators tend to take programmer copyrights extremely seriously (some MSOs own or have stakes in programmers, after all). But I haven't seen any evidence that Monsoon's had success with this strategy. (See Monsoon Pitches MSO-Managed TV Place-Shifting.)

Still, this legal attack is an interesting play for Sling Media, considered a pioneer in video place-shifting.

Sling ultimately answers to Charlie Ergen, who, as we all know, recently got taken to the woodshed by TiVo Inc., a DVR pioneer that has successfully reaped millions from lawsuits centered on its powerful patent portfolio. (See Dish, EchoStar to Pay TiVo $500M to Settle Suit.)

Ergen, perhaps still smarting from the TiVo beatdown, is now trying the same thing on two competitors. If he's successful, will he stop there?

If not, would that make Motorola Mobility LLC (and soon, by M&A extension, Arris Group Inc.) a possible target? Moto's Televation product (Comcast Corp. markets it under the AnyPlay brand) is a video transcoding device that uses a CableCARD. It keeps video on the home network, but a firmware upgrade, I've been told, can enable the device to sling video outside of the home, too. Obtaining the rights to ship those streams outside the home network is likely the big hang-up.

If Sling wins its case against Belkin and Monsoon, it could push more pay-TV operators to pay tribute to Charlie Ergen and Sling -- either through a straight-up license or one that comes way of Sling's integration in Broadcom Corp.'s new video gateway SoCs. (See Broadcom Video Gateway SoC Gets 'SlingLoaded' and EchoStar Puts Sling Out To License.)

And the lawsuit route could create a new revenue stream for Sling, which has a cult-like fan base and a solid consumer brand, but has yet to take the world by storm. It's a strategy that has worked in TiVo's favor, anyway, so Sling might be onto something here.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from The Bauminator
Don't expect anything more to pop for a while, but one analyst sees John Malone & Co. as the 'logical, ultimate acquirer of Ziggo' if the price is right
Cable operators will need to free up at least 24MHz of spectrum for Docsis 3.1. But why is that the magic number?
Liberty Media's rumored plan to snag a 25% stake in Charter for $2.5B could aid the MSO's M&A strategy
Top US cable operators lost 1.41 million video subs in 2012, but the bleeding continues to show signs of slowing in a saturated pay-TV market
Aereo streams its 'no cable required' tagline into the video world. Will consumers tune in to the message?
Featured Video
From The Founder
John Chambers is still as passionate about business and innovation as he ever was at Cisco, finds Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
June 26, 2018, Nice, France
September 12, 2018, Los Angeles, CA
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 17, 2018, Chicago, Illinois
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
NFV Is Down but Not Out
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/22/2018
Trump Denies ZTE Deal, Faces Senate Backlash
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/22/2018
What VeloCloud Cost VMware
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 5/21/2018
5G in the USA: A Post-BCE Update
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2018
Vanquished in Video, Verizon Admits OTT Defeat
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed