Sling Media Inc. CEO Blake Krikorian testified before the House Commerce Committee 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 told the Committee Wednesday (March 29).
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.
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.