Slingboxes, streaming video way before it was cool, go dark tomorrow

The original Slingbox, shown at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show.  Key indicators this used to include the Toshiba Satellite laptop used for demonstration (and large glossy UI buttons).
Increase / The original Slingbox, shown at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show. Key indicators this used to include the Toshiba Satellite laptop used for demonstration (and large glossy UI buttons).

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Slingbox, a device and service that streamed digital television long before the world was ready for it, will die a cloud-based server death on Wednesday, November 9. The service was nearly 17 years old.

Sling Media announced two years ago that Slingbox would be discontinued, noting that “all Slingbox devices and services will be discontinued.” The reason given was a reduction in demand. Being able to watch video that would normally be on your TV on a non-TV screen was new—and controversial—when Sling debuted in 2005. Today, there is more content than you can watch in a lifetime, available on devices that can be connected anywhere, offered voluntarily by every major media company and sports league.

Sling was born out of two rich fields: General Magic, the Apple spinoff company where founder Blake Krikorian worked in the early 1990s, and the baseball San Francisco Giants in 2002. it is strong. The Giants were headed to the World Series that year, and the Krikorian brothers wanted to watch, or at least listen. They found they had their local broadcast deals turned off or were asked to pay extra to stream games over the cable and internet they already pay for at home.

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TiVo was around back then, but it could only play what you recorded on the same TV. Slingbox, as the name suggests, can stream your home cable video to the Internet wherever you have access. It didn’t take long after the launch of Slingbox for video service companies to take notice.

“Will Hollywood Sue SlingBox?” was the main topic of Ars in April 2006. The strongest hand content companies could play were their retransmission agreements, which Sling had not signed. Sling CEO Blake Krikorian (who died in 2016) said in 2006 that modified video was “one of the technologies that will help broadcasters stay relevant in this day and age.” Ars’ Nate Anderson wrote at the time that “if broadcasters were truly interested in getting their product out to as many people as possible, SlingBox wouldn’t exist: the networks would already be broadcasting their content across the Internet.”

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There was a lot of tension, and a good deal of shaking, including sports teams angry that traveling sports fans were able to see games they used to miss because they weren’t in the market. Later, when 3G and the iPhone introduced devices that made watching television on your phone more reasonable, AT&T forced Sling to block 3G devices from accessing Sling devices on the carrier’s network.

The original Slingbox, with holes you may remember.
Increase / The original Slingbox, with holes you may remember.

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However, Slingbox (sometimes Slingbox like Slingbox,” but officially one unified name) continued. “We’re big fans of SlingBox here at Ars,” Jeremy Reimer wrote in early 2007, noting that ” we tested it successfully across the Atlantic Ocean.” Sling even second-guessed how people will view content one day. The SlingCatcher, a $300 box released in October 2008, can let you (get this) view Internet content like Hulu, YouTube, and whatever else you can put on a USB drive on your TV. It was a smart TV upgrade before smart TVs were a category.

Sling will later partner with satellite network Dish to upgrade its digital video recorder (DVR) set-top box to the “Hopper with Sling,” giving people the ability to watch live and recorded games on the Web. That drew real orders from content companies like Fox, perhaps because of Dish’s large size. CBS, too, will show its disdain for Sling, albeit in a quieter way. The network reportedly barred a CNET affiliate from reviewing Dish’s Hopper service, leading to the resignation of CNET reporter Greg Sandoval.

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The legal challenges kept coming, and perhaps as a result, Dish and Sling pursued a more content-compliant broadcast offering, Sling TV. The app was aimed at those who skip cable but still want live cable channels, like ESPN, Food Network, and CNN. There were no local broadcast stations, however, and some notable programs were canceled. Our review at launch noted that the target age of those channels was much older than an audience that might be more comfortable with a grid of apps than a single cable remote. Sling TV is surviving, however, and expanding its offerings.

How the 2005 Slingbox works in 2022, courtesy of LGR.

But Slingbox, the hardware product that sends your TV to your devices, will no longer work after November 9. If you’re in a hurry, however, you can retrieve your Slingbox device password, then use the open source Slinger app to move your Sling traffic. on company servers and directly to your applications and devices. Ultimately, as in the beginning, Slingbox fans are working with existing technology to get the TV access they want.


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