Farewell old friend: The granddaddy of modern TV streaming, Slingbox, is about to go off life support. On Wednesday, November 9, the cloud-based content provider will end server support, effectively ending all device functionality. The service is a ripe old 17-year-old, which by modern technology standards is at least a couple of lives old. The news wasn’t a surprise, but the due date snuck up on us.
Slingbox entered hospice care two years ago when Sling Media announced that the device was sunsetting. Modern streaming services require no external hardware other than your PC, laptop, video game console, smart TV, tablet or phone. So the decision to let Slingbox die peacefully represented a lack of demand and an end to legal challenges.
Slingbox was technically ahead of its time. When it launched in 2005, less than half of all US homes had the broadband service required to run the device. Cable Internet didn’t become popular until after 2007. If you had a Slingbox in 2005, you probably saw it as some kind of sorcery, even if you might not be willing to admit it.
It was founders Blake and Jason Krikorian’s passion for San Francisco Giants baseball that led to the invention of Slingbox. At the time, the brothers owned a consulting firm and traveled extensively away from their home in San Francisco. They became frustrated when they couldn’t watch Giants games out of town because of network deals that answered them in other cities.
Digital video recorders like TiVo already existed, but they wanted a platform to watch baseball live wherever they were. So the brothers invented a box that could send content from their home cable provider to wherever they were, hence the name Slingbox.
Networks and sports teams raised a lot of fuss over the technology, deeming it illegal, but didn’t have much leg to stand on in the courts. Broadcasters cried foul over retransmission deals, but the Krikorians never signed any that other networks had.
With the advent of 3G mobile services, smartphones became a viable way to watch TV from home. However, AT&T did not like this and blocked the service from customers’ accounts.
Despite the negative corporate nonsense, Slingbox was widely used. It sold well enough that Dish bought Sling Media for $380 million in 2007, just two years after the first box hit the market. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $543,966,201 in today’s economy.
If you still have an old (or newer) working Slingbox, why not plug it in and say goodbye while you watch the server signal finally give out? Don’t worry if you’re a Sling TV subscriber. Sling TV is a completely different service and will remain unaffected.
Image credit: LGR Blerbs