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

The original Slingbox that debuted at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show.  Highlights that were long overdue include the Toshiba Satellite laptop used for the demo (and the giant glossy interface buttons).
Increase / The original Slingbox that debuted at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show. Highlights that were long overdue include the Toshiba Satellite laptop used for the demo (and the giant glossy interface buttons).

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Slingbox, the device and service used to stream digital TV long before the world was ready for it, will die the death of a cloud server on Wednesday, November 9th. The service was almost 17 years old.

Sling Media announced two years ago that Slingbox would be discontinued, stating that “all Slingbox devices and services will become obsolete.” A drop in demand was cited as the reason. The ability to watch video that would normally be on your TV on a non-TV screen was a new and legally contentious thing when Sling launched in 2005. There is more content these days than you can possibly watch in a lifetime. available on devices that can be connected from almost anywhere, which every major media company and sports league is happy to offer.

Sling was born out of two rich fields: General Magic, an Apple spinoff company where founder Blake Krikorian worked in the early 1990s, and San Francisco Giants baseball in 2002. Krikorian and his brother Jason traveled a lot at the time as they built their consulting service. strict. That year, the Giants went to the World Series, and the Krikorian brothers wanted to watch, or at least listen. They found themselves either being blackballed by local broadcast contracts or being asked to pay extra to stream games via cable and internet that they were already paying for at home.

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TiVo existed back then, but it could only play what you recorded on the same TV. Slingbox, as the name suggests, can project your home cable video over the Internet wherever you can access it. It didn’t take long after Slingbox launched for the companies behind the video to take notice.

“Will Hollywood Sue SlingBox Out of Existence?” was an Ars headline in April 2006. The most powerful hand the mobile content companies could play was their retransmission agreements, which Sling had not signed. Sling CEO Blake Krikorian (who died in 2016) said in 2006 that spot-based video “is one of the technologies that will help broadcasters stay relevant today.” Ars Nate Anderson wrote at the time that “if broadcasters were truly interested in getting their product to as many people as possible, SlingBox wouldn’t even exist: networks would already be streaming their content over the Internet.”

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There was a lot of backlash and a lot of controversy, including from sports leagues that were mad that traveling sports fans could see games they’d normally miss because they’re out of the market. Later, when 3G and the iPhone introduced devices that made watching TV on a phone somewhat reasonable, AT&T forced Sling to block 3G devices from accessing Sling devices on the carrier’s network.

The original Slingbox with some ports you might remember.
Increase / The original Slingbox with some ports you might remember.

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And yet the Slingbox (sometimes capitalized as “SlingBox”, but officially just one compound word) persisted. “We here at Ars are big fans of SlingBox,” wrote Jeremy Reimer in early 2007, noting that “we’ve successfully tested it across the Atlantic.” Sling even correctly second-guessed how people would view content one day. The SlingCatcher, a $300 box released in October 2008, will let you (you can get it) watch Internet content like Hulu, YouTube, or other content you can put on a TV USB drive. It was a smart TV innovation before smart TVs were a category.

Later, Sling will partner with satellite network Dish to upgrade its Hopper digital video recorder (DVR) set-top box to “Hopper with Sling,” giving people the ability to watch both live and recorded shows on the Web. This resulted in real orders from content companies such as Fox, possibly due to Dish’s sheer size. CBS would also show its disdain for Sling, albeit in a more muted way. The network reportedly barred its CNET affiliate from reviewing Dish’s Hopper service, leading to the resignation of CNET reporter Greg Sandoval.

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The legal challenges continued, and perhaps that’s why Dish and Sling switched to a more content-friendly streaming offering, Sling TV. The app was aimed at those who skipped cable but might want some live cable channels like ESPN, Food Network and CNN. However, there were no local broadcast channels and some prominent shows were blacked out. Our review at launch noted that these channels were aimed at a much older audience that might be happy with a grid of apps rather than a single cable remote. However, Sling TV survives and has expanded its offerings.

How the 2005 Slingbox works in 2022, thanks to LGR.

But Slingbox, the hardware product that sends your TV to your devices, still won’t work after November 9. However, if you’re moving fast, you can retrieve the password for your Slingbox device and then use the free open source Slinger app to potentially redirect your Sling traffic. around company servers and directly to your apps and devices. In the end, as in the beginning, Slingbox fans work with existing technologies to access the TV they need.


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