Don't fear the Slingbox: operators

23 Jun 2006

The Slingbox - the device from startup Sling Media that allows users to view their pay-TV services via the Internet - has earned the wrath of everyone from pay-TV operators to Major League Baseball, but some satellite operators say that Slingbox technology is as much an opportunity as a threat.

"There's no question that it's a disruptive technology," said Bryan McGuirk, SES Americom's president of media solutions. "I was sitting next to a colleague of mine on a flight recently who was watching their IPTV service on their laptop using Connexion By Boeing."

The Slingbox, launched in March this year, has polarized content owners worried that it's a form of piracy and end-user advocates who argue that viewers aren't accessing anything they haven't already paid for.

Sling Media and its advocates have also claimed that the technology better enables pay-TV operators and content owners to realize their goal of deploying video across fixed-line and mobile TV platforms.

McGuirk acknowledged that Slingbox presented an interesting opportunity that players should look at seriously, but admitted that it was a threat as well.

"It's not one that's easily resolved either, because the legal issues aren't that well understood yet," he said. "It depends on how the final cards play out."

Tim Jackson, senior director of emerging media at PanAmSat, agreed.

"I think it's both an opportunity and a threat," he said. "It's definitely a mindshift in how we think about TV and how people watch it. Converting a movie into a digital file is disruptive too, but it's a much more efficient way to distribute it, both in a good and bad sense."

Paul Berriman head of strategic market development at PCCW, also expressed a lack of concern over the Slingbox's impact on PCCW's NOW Broadband TV service.

"W e have no particular objection to the Slingbox," he told AsiaSatellite News . "The IPTV service is paid for, so if people want to watch it in another location outside their home, it's fine by us."

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