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Boxee Adds a Video Sling

With the debut of an over-the-air TV tuner dongle set for early 2012, Boxee 's been styling itself a cord-cutting tool that MSOs should fear. But its latest move -- the integration of EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS)'s SlingMedia player -- can transform the D-Link Systems Inc. -made device into an IP set-top box that can access an MSO's subscription programming package. (See Boxee Tees Up Live TV Cord-Cutting Tool .)

So in addition to using a Slingbox (the Solo or Pro-HD models) to place-shift TV programming to tablets, PCs and smartphones, it can also be used to sling TV programming to ... another TV.

It's a interesting move with some novel use-cases. The most obvious one is to sling programming from a traditional set-top to a Boxee box that's connected to the home network and another TV. Like any other Slingbox scenario, using it in this fashion essentially hijacks the TV connected to the regular cable box, but it does add some value to Boxee's $179 device.

This video demonstration of the Boxee-SlingPlayer set-up also gets into another, I think, more interesting scenario -- a kid goes off to college and uses his Boxee box to access his parents' video subscription via the Intertubes without having to pay for a separate video subscription or set-top box. The cash-strapped student in question would just need a decent broadband connection.

I'm drawn to this idea because it harkens back to a personal experience that's sort of similar. I recently moved away from Denver to the Philly area, so one of my last acts before the big move was to install my Slingbox on a little-used TV in my parents' house so I could watch Denver Broncos games that aren't nationally televised, which is to say, most of them.

I'd rather watch the games while kicking back on the couch, but I am perfectly happy viewing them on my laptop or iPad over a three-hour stint. The quality, though a far cry from HD, has been plenty good enough to follow the action, and it beats catching glimpses of the game on the NFL RedZone channel. And it definitely beats another option -- becoming an insufferable Eagles fan.

The Boxee implementation could give me another way to do all this, though I wonder how a Sling stream sent over the public Internet will look on a big TV screen. I'm guessing it will be a pixel-feast.

But I'm not yet in the market to buy another broadband video device to find out. For now, I'll hold out hope that Roku Inc. will come through and add a SlingPlayer app of its own because I've already got one of those boxes installed and ready to go.

It's wishful thinking, but hey, the high and mighty Tim Tebow's controlling the reins of my team's offense these days, so perhaps another prayer will be answered soon enough.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 4:48:12 PM
re: Boxee Adds a Video Sling

A techie friend of mine calls Boxee's Live TV dongle "the Magic Jack for TV." An apt description? Perhaps, though you still need to buy the Boxee box too. The Sling angle is interesting too, though it could draw a hard look from copyright attorneys.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:48:11 PM
re: Boxee Adds a Video Sling

I suppose you could buy a digital over the air tuner for less than the Boxee dongle, but you'd lose that integrated over the top video experience. I still wonder about the legality of the Sling technology, too, especially in the college kid scenario, but it's been able to avoid any big legal entaglements so far... and I think there's a good reason why TW Cable's Docsis 3.0 promotion ties in a Sling retail angle instead of a scenario in which the MSO distributed the Slingboxes. JB

Cooper10 12/5/2012 | 4:48:00 PM
re: Boxee Adds a Video Sling

Jeff - inquiring minds want to know...when will you get Viacom to answer why they haven't sued EchoStar (owner of Slingbox) or DISH Network over Sling technology?  They clearly didn't hesitate to sue TWC or CVC for re-transmitting content in IP format, so why does DISH Network get a free pass with Sling technology integrated into their receivers? (with the added benefit of Slinging content outside the home...)


Maybe because they don't really want a court ruling on this?

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:47:52 PM
re: Boxee Adds a Video Sling

Hmmm, I'll see if I can get one, but it would seem the lawyers see this one as a non-starter, since it's been more than four years since HBO  started gritching about Sling. But that was back when Sling was just a retail play. I also wonder if it opens things up again now that Dish is distributing Sling-Loaded receivers.  I'm also curious to learn how EchoStar's first MSO customers deploy this... will they limit the number of channels it can sling based on the rights they've negotiated with the programmers? 


But BTIG's Richard Greenfield attacked that question in March. You can read more about it here, but he does note that Sling uses video signals that are already being directed to a set-top box.  Comcast's AnyPlay device doesn't rely on a separate set-top box (although it does have a CableCARD), so that may be partly why it's being cautious. JB


 

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