Sling Media: We're Good for Cable

Sling Media Inc. CEO Blake Krikorian testified before the House Commerce Committee Wednesday that his video “place shifting” device will help, not hurt, broadcasters and cable providers.

Sling Media's “Slingbox” grabs the TV signal at the home and slings it out over a broadband connection to a laptop, cell phone or any other connected device. Where the Tivo allows viewers to “time shift” their programming, Sling allows them to “place shift” it.

While Sling is still a young company and the quality of "slung" media is poor given bandwidth constraints, some members of the content and broadcasting communities have already expressed concern over the device. Krikorian points out, however, that the skepticism is unfounded because Sling neither records content nor distributes it to more than one end point at a time.

“I think for the cable company this is a great thing, I think a product like this is going to help drive their services,” Krikorian said.

According to Krikorian, Sling helps extend the reach of content owners and broadcasters. “From a local broadcaster perspective, this is one of the technologies that will help broadcasters stay relevant in this day and age,” Krikorian says. “With Sling in the home, you could reach me for 10 hours a day that you couldn’t reach me before.”

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) declined to comment on the Slingbox, as did Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK).

The House Commerce Committee is holding hearings to decide whether or not to make changes to "fair use" language in the copyright law now that time- and place- shifting technologies have emerged.

John Feehery of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said the large studios want to work directly with makers of new technologies on digital rights management issues. “We have to have the protections in place so that it doesn’t get out of hand and lead to massive piracy,” Feehery explained.

Krikorian told the committee that fears of copyright infringement have hung over the company since its inception. Investors too, he said, were nervous about backing the idea because of potential legal problems.

“It was very difficult to raise money; investors were very nervous,” Krikorian told the committee. “It was tough living under that shadow of possible litigation.”

The Slingbox has been selling for just over a year now, Krikorian says. His company won’t reveal how many of the devices have been sold, only that it’s in the six figures. The product is manufactured in a former Sony factory owned by a private company in Singapore, he said.

“You need to help preserve a marketplace where new innovation is possible and people can work and develop new products under fair use [law] and not have to ask permission in advance,” Krikorian said.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

Mark Sullivan 12/5/2012 | 3:59:31 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable The cable guys own broadband networks and are moving into wireless services. Why would they allow some little player like Sling to use cable-licensed content to provide a service the cable companies could themselves provide!?
chengjinzhu 12/5/2012 | 3:59:31 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable You hit the point on the head I think. There's no reason that technology can't be licensed by Sling Media to an SA, Motorola, 2Wire or Tivo type entity.

First they create the market, then they ride it. The trick is not to lose control of it like happened with DVR and Tivo, right?
Mark Sullivan 12/5/2012 | 3:59:31 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable And another thing. If there ends up being demand for this Sling thing, wouldn't the cable company (or telco TV company) just build the technology into its set top boxes? How much long-term sales potential can Sling's strange-looking device have?
ozip 12/5/2012 | 3:59:28 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable From a media perspective, its nothing more than someone plugging a different portable display device into the STB. I would wager that people who have them probably use them more often around their house, on the WLAN than over the Internet.

However, when they do use them over the Internet, they consume greater than normal amounts of bandwidth on the cable upstream. An opportunity to charge for a descrete Sling remote service.

alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:59:27 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable If everybody on my DOCSIS upstream started running Sling along with the illicit web hosting and BitTorrent that's going on today, my network would quickly become unusuable. Look for the port blocking and deep packet inspection mechanisms to be deployed.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:59:23 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable Couldn't the cable companies stream from their own servers instead of from settop boxes? Also, what are the copyright ramifications? Will Slingmedia be facing significant legal battles with the copyright holders?

Place-shifting is problematic to many copyright holders because it sidesteps what is known in legalese as proximity control, which restricts the distribution of content to specific regions and times. It's a standard contractual stipulation for the MPAA, whose member studios license distribution rights to movies for distinct territories; the NFL, which considers geographic limits the linchpin of lucrative television deals, including its Sunday Ticket pact with DirecTV; and local television stations, which pony up millions of dollars for exclusive territorial rights to all kinds of programming.

"Slingbox is one manifestation of what we assume will be a cascade of similar products that are meant to manipulate our signals in ways that we think will be harmful to the network-affiliate business, if not the law," CBS executive vp Martin Franks said.
kworkun 12/5/2012 | 3:59:22 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable I recently got a Slingbox and I love it. I spend a lot of time traveling and little things like being able to watch my local news and sports broadcasts from a hotel room is great.
With respect to upstream bandwidth usage, I pay for 800k upstream and this only uses 300k. If they start blocking it, they better refund my monthly fees. I am getting pretty sick of ISPs (my cableco in this case) charging for a b/w and then complaining if I use it.
ozip 12/5/2012 | 3:59:17 AM
re: Sling Media: We're Good for Cable Hey Alcahemy,
Blocking wont happen, thats not a legal opinion, its one from having discussions with cable operators. Why bite the hand that feeds. However it is clear that more sophiscated SLA's and management of bandwidth resources is necessary. The Enterprise style "how much bandwidth" SLA's are not really suited to the needs of the consumer base. DPI may play a role, but it wont be as big as most think. Ultimately better control of the capabilities present in the CMTS and use of PCMM should provide a suitable environment.

BTW. I legally host a website on a cable modem, it costs about $60 a month and the speed is 10M/768K with RCN. Get that from your LEC.......

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