Sunday, December 25, 2005

Take your cable channels with you on the road

In 2002, Blake Krikorian and his brother Jason were beside themselves. Their beloved San Francisco Giants were in a pennant race, yet Blake and Jason, two Silicon Valley engineers, were traveling so much that they missed many of the games on television.

Desperate, they signed up for a service that offered live audio and video of the games over the Internet, only to find that subscribers from San Francisco could not watch Giants games because of blackout restrictions.

The idea for Slingbox was born. The Krikorians decided to find a way to let cable and satellite television customers watch what was on their home televisions while they were on the road. After several years developing the product, their company, Sling Media, released its first boxes in July.

"I was paying $80 a month to Comcast, and I have a broadband pipe in my house and all these other displays," Blake Krikorian said. "So why can't I just watch the TV coming into our house?"

Just as TiVo and other digital video recorders ushered in the concept of "time shifting" a few years ago, the Slingbox promises to make "place shifting" a reality for households. By letting consumers connect with their cable or satellite hookups when they travel, Slingbox has the potential to splinter further the way television is watched.

For instance, even people living far from their hometowns could get a Slingbox, allowing them to watch their local television in another city or even country. Sling Media does not endorse this use of its device for fear of antagonizing cable and satellite companies, which may see it as illicit sharing.


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